Disturbing Patterns

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Science  14 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5857, pp. 1697-1699
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5857.1697d

Forest habitats around the world vary widely in the nature of the influence that humans have had on them. Some forests are primary (more or less undisturbed), others are secondary (regrown after human disturbance), and some are entirely artificial (plantations). In our era, the balance of forested area tilts ever more to the secondary and managed end of the spectrum. In this context, Barlow et al. assessed the conservation value of primary, secondary, and plantation forests in the tropics by comparing the species richness of major invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant taxa across replicated sites in Amazonia. A range of patterns was observed. A few taxa (scavenger flies, moths, and grasshoppers) appeared to be more species-rich in the secondary and plantation forests; unsurprisingly, at the other extreme, amphibians, birds, and woody plants were far better represented in the undisturbed forest; small mammals, orchid bees, and fruit flies appeared to be relatively unaffected by habitat type. These data help to build a picture of the consequences of land-use change for biodiversity in the tropics and elsewhere, and to suggest ways of ameliorating its effects. — AMS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 18555 (2007).

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