Environmental Conservation

Papers

Environmental suitability of a highly fragmented and heterogeneous landscape for forest bird species in south-eastern Brazil

KATIA MARIA PASCHOALETTO MICCHI DE BARROS FERRAZa1 c1, MARINEZ FERREIRA DE SIQUEIRAa2, EDUARDO ROBERTO ALEXANDRINOa1, DANIELA TOMASIO APOLINARIO DA LUZa1 and HILTON THADEU ZARATE DO COUTOa1

a1 University of São Paulo, Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, Forest Science Department, PO Box 9, Piracicaba, São Paulo 13418-900, Brazil

a2 Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, 915 Pacheco Leão Street, Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro 22460-030, Brazil

SUMMARY

Assessment of the suitability of anthropogenic landscapes for wildlife species is crucial for setting priorities for biodiversity conservation. This study aimed to analyse the environmental suitability of a highly fragmented region of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world's 25 recognized biodiversity hotspots, for forest bird species. Eight forest bird species were selected for the analyses, based on point counts (n = 122) conducted in April–September 2006 and January–March 2009. Six additional variables (landscape diversity, distance from forest and streams, aspect, elevation and slope) were modelled in Maxent for (1) actual and (2) simulated land cover, based on the forest expansion required by existing Brazilian forest legislation. Models were evaluated by bootstrap or jackknife methods and their performance was assessed by AUC, omission error, binomial probability or p value. All predictive models were statistically significant, with high AUC values and low omission errors. A small proportion of the actual landscape (24.41 ± 6.31%) was suitable for forest bird species. The simulated landscapes lead to an increase of c.30% in total suitable areas. In average, models predicted a small increase (23.69 ± 6.95%) in the area of suitable native forest for bird species. Being close to forest increased the environmental suitability of landscapes for all bird species; landscape diversity was also a significant factor for some species. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that species distribution modelling (SDM) successfully predicted bird distribution across a heterogeneous landscape at fine spatial resolution, as all models were biologically relevant and statistically significant. The use of landscape variables as predictors contributed significantly to the results, particularly for species distributions over small extents and at fine scales. This is the first study to evaluate the environmental suitability of the remaining Brazilian Atlantic Forest for bird species in an agricultural landscape, and provides important additional data for regional environmental planning.

(Received April 05 2011)

(Accepted January 17 2012)

(Online publication May 01 2012)

Keywords:

  • agricultural landscape;
  • Atlantic Forest;
  • birds;
  • Brazil;
  • matrix heterogeneity;
  • maximum entropy method (Maxent);
  • species distribution modelling

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence: Dr Katia M. P. M. B. Ferraz Tel: +55 19 21058693 Fax: +55 19 21058601 e-mail: katia.ferraz@usp.br