Terrestrial mammal responses to habitat structure and quality of remnant riparian forests in an Amazonian cattle-ranching landscape

Barbara Zimbres, Carlos A. Peres, Ricardo Bomfim Machado

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Extensive 1970–2010 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has generated a ~ 1.5 Mha fragmented region known as the ‘arc of deforestation’. Farmers and cattle ranchers throughout Brazil are legally required to set-aside riparian forest strips within their landholdings, but recent legislative changes have relaxed the minimum mandatory conditions of these riparian forests. In this context, we assessed the functional role of riparian forest remnants as landscape connectors for medium to large-bodied terrestrial mammals in a vast fragmented landscape of southern Amazonia. We selected 38 riparian forest strips and five riparian sites within continuous forest, installed four to five camera-traps along each riparian zone (199 camera-trap stations), and sampled the terrestrial mammal assemblage for 60 days per station during the dry seasons of 2013 and 2014. We compared mammal use of riparian forests within both continuous and highly fragmented forests, and examined the effects of corridor width, corridor habitat structure, and landscape context on mammal species richness, composition, and functional diversity, all of which were higher in continuous forests than in riparian remnants. Functional diversity differences between corridor type was trait-independent and mediated by differences in species richness. Forest habitat degradation was associated with overall lower species richness, whereas forest specialists were more species-rich in increasingly wider corridors. Compositional shifts indicate that deforestation and forest degradation favours matrix-tolerant species with lower levels of forest habitat specificity. We show the potential landscape connectivity role for forest mammals of riparian corridors, whose width and forest degradation status are key predictors of community-wide responses. We provide evidence on the importance of these relict riparian strips to forest vertebrates, strengthening the scientific arguments that help justify the recently embattled legal requirements to maintain effective riparian corridors in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283–292
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date20 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Ecological corridors
  • Forest degradation
  • Functional diversity
  • Landscape connectivity
  • Riparian zones

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