The loss of the rainforest is fueling a tsunami of tropical species extinctions. However, not everything is condemnation and sadness.
A new study, carried out in the Brazilian Amazon, suggests that ecological cataclysms caused by forest fragmentation can be reversed through the regeneration of secondary forests, offering a ray of hope for the biodiversity of tropical forests around the world.
The international team of researchers found that species strongly associated with primary forests were largely depleted after 15 years of human-caused disturbances, including forest burning and logging. However, 30 years later, and with the regeneration of the secondary regrowth, many of the species that had left the area had returned.
"When comparing time periods, it is clear that taking a long-term view is paramount to uncovering the complexity of biodiversity in human-modified landscapes," said lead researcher Dr. Christoph Meyer, professor of global ecology and conservation. the University of Salford.
The study measured the impacts of forest decay on 50 species of bats (approximately 6,000 animals).
Bats comprise about a fifth of all mammalian species and show wide variation in foraging behavior and habitat use, making them an excellent model group for research.
"The responses exhibited by bats offer important information about the responses of other taxonomic groups," says Ricardo Rocha, lead author of the study from the University of Lisbon.
“The recovery we have documented reflects patterns observed for beetle and bird communities in the Amazon.
"These parallel trends reinforce the notion that the benefits of forest regeneration are widespread, and suggest that habitat restoration may alleviate some of the human-inflicted damage to tropical wildlife," he adds.
The results of the current study contrast with the catastrophic declines in fauna observed over a similar period of time in rodent communities on the "forest islands" of the Chiew Larn Reservoir in Thailand.
“The recovery observed in the Amazon was mainly due to the recolonization of previously deforested areas and forest fragments by old-growth specialist bats. This recolonization is probably attributable to a greater diversity and abundance of food resources in areas now occupied by secondary forests, meeting the energy requirements of a larger set of species ", explains Rocha.
However, the short-term nature of most studies has substantially impaired the ability of researchers to adequately capture the intricate time-related complexities associated with the effects of forest fragmentation on wildlife.
The Amazon study was conducted in the Forest Fragment Biological Dynamics Project, jointly managed by the Smithsonian Institute and the Brazilian Institute for Research in the Amazon.
Materials provided by the University of Salford. Note: Content can be edited for style and duration.
Original article (in English)
Ricardo Rocha, Otso Ovaskainen, Adrià López-Baucells, Fábio Z. Farneda, Erica M. Sampaio, Paulo E. D. Bobrowiec, Mar Cabeza, Jorge M. Palmeirim, Christoph F. J. Meyer. Secondary forest regeneration benefits ancient growth specialist bats in a fragmented tropical landscape. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-018-21999-2