Natural vegetation biomass and the dimension of forest quality in tropical agricultural landscapes

de Toledo, Renato Miazaki; Pivello, Vania Regina; Perring, Michael Philip ORCID:; Verdade, Luciano Martins. 2024 Natural vegetation biomass and the dimension of forest quality in tropical agricultural landscapes. Ecological Applications, 34 (3), e2950. 14, pp.

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Forest cover has been a pivotal indicator of biological conservation and carrying capacity for wildlife in forest ecoregions. Such a relationship underpins policies focused on the extension of protected lands. Here, we estimate aboveground biomass (AGB) as a proxy for habitat quality in seminatural rural patches and provide a comparison with approaches that only consider forest cover. We hypothesize that recommendations for biological conservation in agricultural landscapes are substantially improved if habitat quality is also taken into account, and thus consider the possibility of forest quality being modulated by land-use amount, type, and age. We assessed AGB in a densely farmed Brazilian region using a straightforward approach designed to be affordable at large scales, focusing on two expanding and contrasting land uses: sugarcane, and eucalyptus plantations. At a detailed scale, we confirmed through field surveys and AGB estimation using 3D-multispectral imagery (i.e., AGB = 0.842 × vegetation heightNDVI+1) that AGB variation could be predicted with forest degradation classes that are visually distinguishable with high-resolution images: 9.33 t ha−1 (90% predictive intervals [PI] = [3.23, 26.97]) in regenerating fields (RF), 31.12 t ha−1 (90% PI = [10.77, 89.90]) in pioneer woods (PW), and 149.04 t ha−1 (90% PI = [51.59, 430.58]) in dense forests (DF). Applying these values to land units sampled across the study region, we found an average land use of 88.5%, together with 11.5% of land set aside for conservation, which reduced AGB to less than 4.2% of its potential (averages of 5.85 t ha−1 in sugarcane-dominated areas and 6.56 t ha−1 in eucalyptus-dominated areas, with secondary forests averaging 149.04 t ha−1). This imbalance between forest cover and AGB resulted from forest quality decay, which was similarly severe among land-use types, ages, and extensions. Therefore, the shortage of trophic resources is likely more critical to wildlife than spatial limitations in vastly deforested tropical ecoregions, where AGB and carbon sinks can be more than doubled just by restoring forests in lands currently spared by agriculture.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1051-0761
Additional Keywords: degradation monitoring, forest fragments, habitat indicator, southeast Brazil, trophic resources
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
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Date made live: 01 Mar 2024 10:45 +0 (UTC)

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