Landscape changes in a neotropical forest-savanna ecotone zone in central Brazil: The role of protected areas in the maintenance of native vegetation


In the Amazon-savanna ecotone in northwest Brazil, the understudied Araguaia River Basin contains high biodiversity and seasonal wetlands. The region is representative of tropical humid-dry ecotone zones, which have experienced intense land use and land cover (LULC) conversions. Here we assessed the LULC changes for the last four decades in the central portion of the Araguaia River Basin to understand the temporal changes in the landscape composition and configuration outside and inside protected areas. We conducted these analyzes by LULC mapping and landscape metrics based on patch classes. During this period, native vegetation was reduced by 26%. Forests were the most threatened physiognomy, with significant areal reduction and fragmentation. Native vegetation cover was mainly replaced by croplands and pastures. Such replacement followed spatial and temporal trends related to the implementation of protected areas and increases in population cattle herds. The creation of most protected areas took place between 1996 and 2007, the same period during which the conversion of the landscape matrix from natural vegetation to agriculture occurred. We observed that protected areas mitigate fragmentation, but their roles differ according to their location and level of protection. Still, we argue that landscape characteristics, such as suitability for agriculture, also influence landscape conversions and should be considered when establishing protected areas. The information provided in this study can guide new research on species conservation and landscape planning, as well as improve the understanding of the impacts of landscape composition and configuration changes.

Journal of Environmental Management
Andrea S. Garcia
Andrea S. Garcia
Postdoctoral researcher