Forest patch isolation drives local extinctions of Amazonian orchid bees in a 26 years old archipelago

Danielle Storck-Tonon (Lead Author), Carlos A. Peres

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Major hydroelectric dams are among key emergent agents of habitat loss and fragmentation in lowland tropical forests. Orchid bees (Apidae, Euglossini) are one of the most important groups of specialized pollinators of flowering plants in Neotropical forests. Here, we investigate how an entire assemblage of orchid bees responded to the effects of forest habitat loss, isolation and forest canopy degradation induced by a hydroelectric reservoir of Central Brazilian Amazonia. Built in 1986, the Balbina Dam resulted in a vast archipelagic landscape containing 3546 primary forest islands of varying sizes and isolation, surrounded by 3129 km2 of freshwater. Using scent traps, we sampled 34 islands, 14 open-water matrix sites, and three mainland continuous forests, yielding 2870 male orchid bees representing 25 species. Local orchid bee species richness was affected by forest patch area but particularly by site isolation. Distance to forest edges, either within forest areas or into the open-water matrix, was the most important predictor of species richness and composition. Variation in matrix dispersal of individual species to increasingly isolated sites was a key determinant of community structure. Given the patterns of patch persistence and matrix movements of orchid bees in increasingly fragmented forest landscapes, we outline how forest bees respond to the landscape alteration induced by major hydroelectric dams. These results should be considered in environmental impact studies prior to the approval of new dams.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-277
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date4 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Landscape ecology
  • Island biogeography
  • Euglossini

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