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Predictors of forest fragmentation sensitivity in Neotropical vertebrates: a quantitative review


  • Daniela Vetter,

  • Miriam M. Hansbauer,

  • Zsolt Végvári,

  • Ilse Storch

D. Vetter, M. M. Hansbauer and I. Storch (, Dept of Wildlife Ecology and Management, Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Freiburg, Tennenbacher Str. 4, DE-79106 Freiburg, Germany. – Z. Végvári, Dept of Conservation Zoology, Univ. of Debrecen – Hortobágy National Park Directorate, HU-4010 Debrecen, Hungary.


Species' responses to tropical forest fragmentation are variable and not well understood. Species' functional traits might help to reveal patterns of fragmentation sensitivity and provide valuable guidance to conservation practice. On the basis of 30 reviewed studies published between 1997 and 2008, we present a quantitative analysis of 730 responses of Neotropical vertebrates to forest fragmentation and habitat loss in terms of Species' presence, abundance or fitness. Our intention was to identify possible ecological predictors of sensitivity to fragmentation, such as vertebrate group, feeding guild, forest dependency, and body size. We also controlled for methodology and study site characteristics, i.e. parameters studied, study design, study ID, and site ID. These ecological and methodological variables are frequently hypothesized to have an influence on reported fragmentation sensitivity. We conducted Linear Mixed Model analyses in order to relate the potential predictor variables to reported fragmentation effects. Model performance was assessed on the basis of AIC values. The best models included feeding guild, feeding guild+study design and feeding guild+forest dependency, respectively. We found that study ID and site ID significantly improved the models. Post-hoc tests revealed that nectarivores, possibly herbivores, and species able to use open habitats were affected significantly less by forest fragmentation than others. We therefore conclude that Neotropical nectarivores that are able to use open habitats are less negatively affected by forest fragmentation. Furthermore, a study site's characteristics will always be crucial in explaining observed fragmentation effects.