U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Ecological Complexity (2012), doi:10.1016/j.ecocom.2012.03.002


Deforestation and resulting landscape fragmentation are important concerns in many tropical areas. Deforestation is a complex process with many potential feedback loops, many of which are ignored in models that attempt to interpolate forest loss based on past deforestation rates. In addition, most ecological studies of the impacts of deforestation have focused on landscapes that are already fragmented. These studies ignore the fact that edge effects, such as anthropogenic fire, reach their maximum well before habitat connectivity is lost and may create positive feedbacks that result in further fragmentation. We developed a simple model to explore the potential influence of edge effects on fragmentation rates and used remotely sensed data from the MAP (Madre de Dios, Acre, and Pando) region of the Brazilian Amazon to parameterize the relationships of interest. Under reasonable real-world parameter combinations, edge effects can have a significant impact on deforestation rates, supporting the hypothesis that the true tipping point in a forest to pasture regime shift occurs earlier (i.e., ~50% forest loss) than analysis of a loss in connectivity would suggest (i.e., ~60% forest loss). Our results have important implications for understanding deforestation, edge-driven processes, regime shifts, and the management of complex pattern-process relationships.