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Resilience of Southwestern Amazon Forests to Anthropogenic Edge Effects

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Anthropogenic edge effects can compromise the conservation value of mature tropical forests. To date most edge-effect research in Amazonia has concentrated on forests in relatively seasonal locations or with poor soils in the east of the basin. We present the first evaluation from the relatively richer soils of far western Amazonia on the extent to which mature forest biomass, diversity, and composition are affected by edges. In a southwestern Amazonian landscape we surveyed woody plant diversity, species composition, and biomass in 88 × 0.1 ha samples of unflooded forest that spanned a wide range in soil properties and included samples as close as 50 m and as distant as >10 km from anthropogenic edges. We applied Mantel tests, multiple regression on distance matrices, and other multivariate techniques to identify anthropogenic effects before and after accounting for soil factors and spatial autocorrelation. The distance to the nearest edge, access point, and the geographical center of the nearest community (“anthropogenic-distance effects”) all had no detectable effect on tree biomass or species diversity. Anthropogenic-distance effects on tree species composition were also below the limits of detection and were negligible in comparison with natural environmental and spatial factors. Analysis of the data set's capacity to detect anthropogenic effects confirmed that the forests were not severely affected by edges, although because our study had few plots within 100 m of forest edges, our confidence in patterns in the immediate vicinity of edges is limited. It therefore appears that the conservation value of most “edge” forests in this region has not yet been compromised substantially. We caution that because this is one case study it should not be overinterpreted, but one explanation for our findings may be that western Amazonian tree species are naturally faster growing and more disturbance adapted than those farther east.

Keywords: Peru; Perú; biomasa forestal; conservation value; diversidad; diversity; forest biomass; mortalidad; mortality; valor de conservación

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Herbario Vargas, Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco, Cusco, Peru

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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