Small mammal responses to Amazonian forest islands are modulated by their forest dependence

Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Maíra Benchimol, Marcus Vinícius Vieira, Carlos A. Peres

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Hydroelectric dams have induced widespread loss, fragmentation and degradation of terrestrial habitats in lowland tropical forests. Yet their ecological impacts have been widely neglected, particularly in developing countries, which are currently earmarked for exponential hydropower development. Here we assess small mammal assemblage responses to Amazonian forest habitat insularization induced by the 28-year-old Balbina Hydroelectric Dam. We sampled small mammals on 25 forest islands (0.83–1466 ha) and four continuous forest sites in the mainland to assess the overall community structure and species-specific responses to forest insularization. We classified all species according to their degree of forest-dependency using a multi-scale approach, considering landscape, patch and local habitat characteristics. Based on 65,520 trap-nights, we recorded 884 individuals of at least 22 small mammal species. Species richness was best predicted by island area and isolation, with small islands (< 15 ha) harbouring an impoverished nested subset of species (mean ± SD: 2.6 ± 1.3 species), whereas large islands (> 200 ha; 10.8 ± 1.3 species) and continuous forest sites (∞ ha; 12.5 ± 2.5 species) exhibited similarly high species richness. Forest-dependent species showed higher local extinction rates and were often either absent or persisted at low abundances on small islands, where non-forest-dependent species became hyper-abundant. Species capacity to use non-forest habitat matrices appears to dictate small mammal success in small isolated islands. We suggest that ecosystem functioning may be highly disrupted on small islands, which account for 62.7% of all 3546 islands in the Balbina Reservoir.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-204
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Island biogeography
  • Land-bridge islands
  • Tropical forests

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