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Matrix and area effects on the nutritional condition of understory birds in Amazonian rainforest fragments

Hernández-Palma, Angélica, Stouffer, Philip C
Perspectives in ecology and conservation 2018 v.16 no.3 pp. 139-145
biodiversity, birds, deforestation, energy, habitat fragmentation, habitats, land cover, landscapes, rain forests, second growth, tropical forests, understory, wildlife, Brazil
Forest fragmentation, a result of deforestation, not only decreases the amount of habitat available for wildlife, but also increases the isolation of the remaining fragments and the area of edges surrounding them. Also, deforestation often leads to the creation of a dynamic regenerating matrix where cleared land is subsequently abandoned. Here we examine the effects of fragmentation and landscape change on the nutritional condition of Amazonian rainforest birds at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, near Manaus, Brazil. We analyzed ptilochronology-based measurements of feather growth rate in 12 species living in fragments within a dynamic landscape over 21 years. Ptilochronology serves as an index of nutritional condition by revealing energy available for maintenance over 1–2 weeks while the feather is grown, allowing intraspecific comparison across treatments. Feather growth rate decreased in fragments surrounded by young second-growth borders but increased as fragment size and age of adjacent second-growth vegetation increased. Results from this simple, yet informative, measure of nutritional condition reveal physiological impacts of land cover change, including the response of birds to changes occurring at both local and landscape levels. Our results highlight the importance of looking beyond presence/absence data to describe fragmentation effects, and support the value of landscape-scale approaches for the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity.