Identifying structural connectivity priorities in eastern Paraguay’s fragmented Atlantic Forest

Noé U. de la Sancha, Sarah A. Boyle, Nancy E. McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Atlantic Forest of eastern Paraguay has experienced extensive recent deforestation. Less than one-third of the region is forested, and the remaining forest largely consists of isolated remnants with potentially disrupted connectivity for forest fauna. We used a graph theory approach to identify those forest remnants that are important in maintaining landscape structural connectivity for mammals in this fragmented forest. We quantified structural connectivity for forest remnants over the period 2000–2019 at three levels: the entire network of Atlantic Forest remnants in eastern Paraguay; at 10 smaller, nested spatial scales (40–10,000 m) encompassing a range of potential mammalian dispersal abilities; and at the level of individual remnants. We used 10 graph theory metrics to assess aspects of network complexity, dispersal-route efficiency, and individual remnant importance in supporting structural connectivity. We identified forest remnants that serve as important structural connectivity roles as stepping stones, hubs, or articulation points and that should be prioritized for connectivity conservation. Structural connectivity was constrained for organisms incapable of travelling at least 9–12 km (farthest distances between nearest-neighboring forest remnants depending on whether smaller remnants were included or not) and was particularly limited for area-sensitive forest-specialist mammals. With the increased forest loss and fragmentation that is occurring, the connectivity of this system will likely be further compromised, but most of the remnants that we identified as playing important roles for structural connectivity were outside of the country’s proposed “green corridor,” indicating additional areas where conservation action can be directed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16129
JournalScientific reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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