SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Bird communities in tropical forests are strongly affected by both patch area and habitat edges. The fact that both effects are intrinsically confounded in space raises questions about how these two widely reported ecological patterns interact, and whether they are independent or simply different spatial manifestations of the same phenomenon. Moreover, do small patches of secondary forest, in landscapes where the most sensitive species have gone locally extinct, exhibit similar patterns to those previously observed in fragmented and continuous primary forests? We addressed these questions by testing edge-related differences in vegetation structure and bird community composition at 31 sites in fragmented and continuous landscapes in the imperilled Atlantic forest of Brazil. Over a two-year period, birds were captured with mist nets to a standardized effort of 680 net-hours at each site (∼22 000 net-hours resulting in 3381 captures from 114 species). We found that the bird community in patches of secondary forest was degraded in species composition compared to primary continuous forest, but still exhibited a strong response to edge effects. In fragmented secondary forests, edge and area effects also interacted, such that the magnitude of edge to interior differences on bird community composition declined markedly with patch size. The change in bird species composition between forest interiors and edges was similar to the change in community composition between large and small patches (because species had congruent responses to edge and area), but after controlling for edge effects community composition was no longer affected by patch area. Our results show that although secondary forests hold an impoverished bird community, ecological patterns such as area and edge effects are similar to those reported for primary forests. Our data provide further evidence that edge effects are the main drivers of area effects in fragmented landscapes.