Long-term changes in avian biomass and functional diversity within disturbed and undisturbed Amazonian rainforest

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Recent long-term studies in protected areas have revealed the loss of biodiversity, yet the ramifications for ecosystem health and resilience remain unknown. Here, we investigate how the loss of understory birds, in the lowest stratum of the forest, affects avian biomass and functional diversity in the Amazon rainforest. Across approximately 30 years in the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, we used a historical baseline of avian communities to contrast the avian communities in today's primary forest with those in modern disturbed habitat. We found that in primary rainforest, the reduced abundance of insectivorous species led to reduced functional diversity, but no reduction of biomass, indicating that species with similar functional traits are less likely to coexist in modern primary forests. Because today's forests contain fewer functionally redundant species - those with similar traits - we argue that avian communities in modern primary Amazonian rainforests are less resilient, which may ultimately disrupt the ecosystem in dynamic and unforeseen ways.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences