Fragmentation patterns of the Caatinga drylands

Abstract

Context

Biodiversity is modulated by the spatial structure of the landscape. Thus, landscape metrics can be useful indicators of biota integrity and vulnerability, helping in conservation and management decisions.

Objective

We performed the first quantitative analysis of the spatial structure of the Caatinga drylands. We estimated the habitat amount and the fragmentation pattern of this region using a multi-scale perspective.

Methods

Using the Brazilian official database of native remnants, we calculated the number and percentage of remaining fragments per size class and we describe how habitat amount changes along the landscape. By simulating different dispersal capacities, we estimated the functional connectivity among remnants. We also calculated the cumulative core area as a function of different edge effect widths.

Results

Caatinga is subdivided into 47,100 fragments. Although 91% of them are smaller than 500 ha, 720 fragments are larger than 10,000 ha, corresponding to 78% of the remaining vegetation. Potentially, 95% of the vegetation is accessible to species that can cross 1000 m of matrix. With one kilometer of edge effect, the core area is reduced to a quarter of the remaining vegetation. The habitat amount analyzes reinforced the regional differences in the spatial distribution of the remnants.

Conclusions

Caatinga remains well connected for species with moderate and high dispersal capacities. However much of its remaining area is vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances. Expansion of the protected area network and effective natural resource management to avoid overexploitation of the remnants are key strategies for maintaining the Caatinga biodiversity and its services.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Gislene Ganade and Miriam Plaza Pinto for suggestions in previous versions of the manuscript and Megan F. King for the assistance with the English translation. MA received a PhD studentship from the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES/Brazil) and EMV and CRF were supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, Grants (305304/2013-5 and 309458/2013-7).

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Correspondence to Marina Antongiovanni.

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Antongiovanni, M., Venticinque, E.M. & Fonseca, C.R. Fragmentation patterns of the Caatinga drylands. Landscape Ecol 33, 1353–1367 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-018-0672-6

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Keywords

  • Brazil
  • Conservation
  • Edge effect
  • Functional connectivity
  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat amount
  • Landscape
  • Tropical dry forests