Rates of species loss from Amazonian forest fragments
In the face of worldwide habitat fragmentation, managers need to devise a time frame for action. We ask how fast do understory bird species disappear from experimentally isolated plots in the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, central Amazon, Brazil. Our data consist of mist-net records obtained over a period of 13 years in 11 sites of 1, 10, and 100 hectares. The numbers of captures per species per unit time, analyzed under different simplifying assumptions, reveal a set of species-loss curves. From those declining numbers, we derive a scaling rule for the time it takes to lose half the species in a fragment as a function of its area. A 10-fold decrease in the rate of species loss requires a 1,000-fold increase in area. Fragments of 100 hectares lose one half of their species in <15 years, too short a time for implementing conservation measures.