Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 13–14, pp 3141–3163 | Cite as

Forest cover, extinction thresholds and time lags in woody plants (Myrtaceae) in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: resources for conservation

  • Dary Moreira Gonçalves Rigueira
  • Pedro Luís Bernardo da Rocha
  • Eduardo Mariano-Neto
Original Paper


Efforts to conserve tropical forests could be strengthened based on ecological knowledge, such as extinction thresholds in ecological processes. Many studies of extinction thresholds associated with habitat reduction have focused on animals, generally at the patch scale. However, certain plant groups are very interesting models with which to study this type of relationship, such as Myrtaceae in Neotropical forests. Because trees are long-lived organisms, local extinctions in response to habitat loss may occur in different ways due to a time lag. In this study, our objective was to assess the occurrence of extinction thresholds at the landscape scale for Myrtaceae in a large biome and the pattern of species reduction in different tree size classes. We studied nine landscapes with different amounts of available habitat (between 5 and 55 % forest cover) in different parts of the Atlantic Forest in Bahia, Brazil, and in each landscape, we evaluated four plant classes based on tree circumference: saplings (CBH between 8 and 15 cm), young (CBH between 15 and 30 cm) adults (CBH ≥30 cm) and total (all individuals with CBH ≥8 cm). Landscapes with forest cover less than 25 % presented an approximately sixfold reduction in Myrtaceae total species richness compared with landscapes with forest cover greater than 40 %. We identified a relationship with a threshold between the amount of available habitat at the landscape level and Myrtaceae richness, with a reduction in total, sapling and young species below a threshold of 40 % forest cover, whereas adults had an extinction threshold at 30 % forest cover. We discuss the differences among the categories of plants associated with a time lag and the possibilities and limitations in applying these results in environmental management.


Environmental management Habitat loss Local extinction Long-lived organisms Species loss Tropical Forest 



We thank the Foundation for Research Support of the State of Bahia (FAPESB) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for funding this study (grants APP0049/2009, PNX0016/2009 and PPP0004/2010); the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) for the scholarship granted to Dary M. G. Rigueira; the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and the State Secretariat of the Environment of Bahia (SEMA) for logistical support and for granting collection licenses; Rio Tinto and Odebrecht for the loan of the cars used in this research; Charbel N. El-Hani, Renata Pardini, Marcelo Tabarelli and Deborah Faria for contributions used in this work; Marcos E. G. Sobral for identifying plants (Myrtaceae); Vito Muggeo for help with statistical analyses; Diogo Caribé de Sousa for his help with mapping; Nadia Roque for the support before and during the project; Maria Lenise Silva Guedes for help with the screening and storage of the plants in the herbarium ALCB/UFBA; and the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dary Moreira Gonçalves Rigueira
    • 1
  • Pedro Luís Bernardo da Rocha
    • 2
  • Eduardo Mariano-Neto
    • 3
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Biomonitoramento, Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Biologia Universidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil

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