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.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 29, 2004