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Keywords:

  • Broad-leaved evergreen forest;
  • deforestation;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • human disturbances;
  • landscape indices;
  • species richness

ABSTRACT

Aim  Few studies have explicitly examined the influence of spatial attributes of forest fragments when examining the impacts of fragmentation on woody species. The aim of this study was to assess the diverse impacts of fragmentation on forest habitats by integrating landscape-level and species-level approaches.

Location  The investigation was undertaken in temperate rain forests located in southern Chile. This ecosystem is characterized by high endemism and by intensive recent changes in land use.

Method  Measures of diversity, richness, species composition, forest structure and anthropogenic disturbances were related to spatial attributes of the landscape (size, shape, connectivity, isolation and interior forest area) of forest fragments using generalized linear models. A total of 63 sampling plots distributed in 51 forest fragments with different spatial attributes were sampled.

Results  Patch size was the most important attribute influencing different measures of species composition, stand structure and anthropogenic disturbances. The abundance of tree and shrub species associated with interior and edge habitats was significantly related to variation in patch size. Basal area, a measure of forest structure, significantly declined with decreasing patch size, suggesting that fragmentation is affecting successional processes in the remaining forests. Small patches also displayed a greater number of stumps, animal trails and cow pats, and lower values of canopy cover as a result of selective logging and livestock grazing in relatively accessible fragments. However, tree richness and β-diversity of tree species were not significantly related to fragmentation.

Main conclusions  This study demonstrates that progressive fragmentation by logging and clearance is associated with dramatic changes in the structure and composition of the temperate forests in southern Chile. If this fragmentation process continues, the ability of the remnant forests to maintain their original biodiversity and ecological processes will be significantly reduced.