Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 385–403 | Cite as

The fragmented Atlantic rain forest of Brazil: size, shape and distribution of forest fragments



The geographical characteristics of a total of 1839 forest fragments surrounded by sugar cane fields were studied in the Brazilian Atlantic rain forest region of the northeastern state of Pernambuco. The size and shape of the fragments as well as inter-fragment distances and the effects of varying edge width were examined using a geographical information system. The analyses show that the fragments are relatively small and close to each other. Approximately 48% of the rain forest fragments are <10 hectares, while only about 7% are >100 hectares. Forest fragments are close to each other, as fragments located 50m or less apart formed groups that included ca. 50% of the total forest area. At 350m inter-fragment distance, 98% of the rain forest area was included in groups of fragments. Due to the small size and irregular shape of the fragments, the total area of edge zone exceeds that of the interior habitat when the edge width is ca. 60m. At an edge width of 300m ca. 94% of the total fragment area is edge zone. For conservation purposes, ways of establishing networks of forest fragments connected by corridors and stepping stone fragments are demonstrated using GIS. Simulations using these techniques show that reforestation of sugar cane fields between the forest fragments would considerably increase the area of interior forest habitat and connectivity between fragments.

fragmentation isolation tropical rain forest Atlantic Brazil Pernambuco 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrade-Lima, D. de (1977) Preservation of the flora of northeastern Brazil. In Extinction is Forever (G.T. Prance and T.S. Elias, eds) pp. 234–9. New York: The New York Botanical Garden.Google Scholar
  2. Bierregaard, R.O. and Dale, V.H. (1996) Islands in an ever-changing sea: the ecological and socioeconomic dynamics of Amazonian rain forest fragments. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 187–204. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bierregaard, R.O.Jr., Lovejoy, T.E., Kapos, V., dos Santos, A.A. and Hutchins, R.W. (1992) The biological dynamics of tropical rain forest fragments. Bioscience 42, 859–66.Google Scholar
  4. Brücher, H. (1977) Tropische Nutzpflanzen, 529 p. Berlin: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  5. Burkey, T.V. (1993) Edge effects in seed and egg predation at two Neotropical rain forest sites. Biol. Conserv. 66, 139–43.Google Scholar
  6. Coelho, M.d.A. (1990) Geografia do Brasil, 281 p. Sao Paolo: Editora Moderna Ltda.Google Scholar
  7. Daily, G.C. and Ehrlich, P.R. (1995) Preservation of biodiversity in small rainforest patches: rapid evaluations using butterfly trapping. Biodiv. Conserv. 4, 35–55.Google Scholar
  8. Diamond, J.M. (1975) The island dilemma: lessons of modern biogeographic studies for the design of natural reserves. Biol. Conserv. 7, 129–46.Google Scholar
  9. Estrada, A., Coates-Estrada, R. and Merrit, D. Jr. (1993) Bat species richness and abundance in tropical rain forest fragments and in agricultural habitats at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Ecography 16, 309–18.Google Scholar
  10. Estrada, A., Coates-Estrada, R. and Merrit, D.Jr. (1994) Non flying mammals and landscape changes in the tropical rain forest region of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Ecography 17, 229–41.Google Scholar
  11. Fonseca, G.A.B., da (1985) The vanishing Brazilian Atlantic forest. Biol. Conserv. 34, 17–34.Google Scholar
  12. Forman, R.T.T. (1995) Land Mosaics. The Ecology of Landscapes and Regions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Haggett, P. and Chorley, R. (1969) Network Analysis in Geography. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
  14. Haila, Y. (1990) Toward an ecological definition of an island: a northwest European perspective. J. Biogeogr. 17, 561–8.Google Scholar
  15. Harris, L.D. and Silva-Lopez, G. (1992) Forest fragmentation and the conservation of biological diversity. In Conservation Biology, the Theory and Practice of Nature Conservation and Management (P.L. Fiedler and S.K. Jain, eds) pp. 197–237. New York: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  16. INPE and IBAMA (1990) Atlas dos Remanescentes Florestais do Dominio da Mata Atlãntica.Google Scholar
  17. Kattan, G.H. and Alvarez-López, H. (1996) Preservation and management of biodiversity in fragmented landscapes in the Colombian Andes. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 3–18. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kellman, M., Tackaberry, S. and Meave, J. (1996) The consequences of prolonged fragmentation: lessons from tropical gallery forests. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 37–58. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kinzey, W.G. (1981) Distribution of primates and forest refuges. In Biological Diversification in the Tropics (G.T. Prance, ed.) pp. 455–82. Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Laurance, W.F. (1991) Edge effects in tropical forest fragments: application of a model for the design of nature reserves. Biol. Conserv. 57, 205–19.Google Scholar
  21. Laurance, W.F. (1994) Rainforest fragmentation and the structure of small mammal communities in tropical Queensland. Biol. Conserv. 69, 23–32.Google Scholar
  22. Laurance, W.F. and Yensen, E. (1991) Predicting the impacts of edge effects in fragmented habitats. Biol. Conserv. 55, 77–92.Google Scholar
  23. Lovejoy, T.E., Rankin, J.M., Bierregaard, R.O.Jr., Brown, K.S.Jr., Emmons, L.H. and Van der Voort, M.E. (1984) Ecosystem decay of Amazon forest remnants. In Extinctions (M.H. Nitecki, ed.) pp. 295–326. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lovejoy, T.E., Bierregaard, R.O., Rylands, A.B., Malcolm, J.R., Quintela, C.E., Harper, L.H., Brown, K.S., Powell, A.H., Powell, G.W.N., Schubart, H.O.R. and Hays, M.B. (1986) Edge and other effects of isolation in Amazon forest fragments. In Conservation Biology. The Science of Scarcity and Diversity (M.E. Soulé, ed.) pp. 257–85. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
  25. MacArthur, R.H. and Wilson, E.O. (1967) The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Machlis, G.E. and Neumann, R.P. (1986) La situación de los parques nacionales en la región neotropical. In Conservando el Patrimonio Natural de la Región Neotropical, pp. 43–50. Gland: IUCN.Google Scholar
  27. Mori, S.A., Boom, B.M. and Prance, G.T. (1981) Distribution patterns and conservation of eastern Brazilian coastal forest tree species. Brittonia 33, 233–45.Google Scholar
  28. Murcia, C. (1996) Forest fragmentation and the pollination of Neotropical plants. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 19–36. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  29. Pimm, S.L. and Gilpin, M.E. (1989) Theoretical issues in conservation biology. In Perspectives in Ecological Theory (J. Roughgarden, R.M. May and S.A. Levin, eds) pp. 287–305. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Por, F.D. (1992) Sooretama, the Atlantic Rain Forest of Brazil. The Hague: SPB Academic Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Power, A.G. (1996) Arthropod diversity in forest patches and agroecosystems of tropical landscapes. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 91–110. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  32. Prado, C.Jr. (1976) História econômica do Brasil. 364 p. Editora Brasiliense.Google Scholar
  33. Prance, G.T. (1987) Biogeography of Neotropical plants. In Biogeography and Quaternary History in Tropical America (T.C. Whitmore and G.T. Prance, eds) pp. 46–65. Oxford: Oxford Science Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Quinn, J.F. and Hastings, A. (1987) Extinction in subdivided habitats. Conserv. Biol. 1, 198–208.Google Scholar
  35. Saunders, D.A., Hobbs, R.J. and Margules, C.R. (1991) Biological consequences of ecosystem fragmentation: a review. Conserv. Biol. 5, 18–32.Google Scholar
  36. Schelhas, J. and Greenberg, R. (1996) Introduction: the value of forest patches. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. xv–xxxvi. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  37. Shafer, C.L. (1990) Nature Reserves: Island Theory and Conservation Practice. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  38. Skole, D. and Tucker, C. (1993) Tropical deforestation and habitat fragmentation in the Amazon: satellite data from 1978 to 1988. Science 260, 1905–10.Google Scholar
  39. SUDENE (1984) Dados climatológicos básicos do Nordeste.Google Scholar
  40. Turner, I.M., Tan, H.T.W., Wee, Y.C., Ibrahim, A.B., Chew, P.T. and Corlett, R.T. (1994) A study of plant species extinction in Singapore: lessons for the conservation of tropical biodiversity. Conserv. Biol. 8, 705–12.Google Scholar
  41. Turner, I.M., Chua, K.S., Ong, J.S.Y., Soong, B.C. and Tan, H.T.W. (1996) A century of plant species loss from an isolated fragment of lowland tropical rain forest. Conserv. Biol. 10, 1229–44.Google Scholar
  42. Viana, V.M. and Tabanez, A.A.J. (1996) Biology and conservation of forest fragments in the Brazilian Atlantic moist forest. In Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes (J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, eds) pp. 151–67. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  43. Wilcove, D.S., McLella, C.H. and Dobson, A.P. (1986) Habitat fragmentation in the temperate zone. In Conservation Biology. The Science of Scarcity and Diversity (M.E. Soulé, ed.) pp. 237–56. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
  44. Young, A. and Mitchell, N. (1994) Microclimate and vegetation edge effects in a fragmented podocarp-broadleaf forest in New Zealand. Conserv. Biol. 67, 63–72.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall 1998

Authors and Affiliations


There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations