60-Second Earth

Bringing Birds Back to Regrowing Forests

Once fragmented forests are growing back together, do tropical birds follow? David Biello reports

The Amazon rainforest near Manaus in Brazil was almost completely cleared decades ago for cattle grazing. Fragments of the original forest remained, thanks to government policies that required some trees to be left standing. But these sections were too small to support various bird species.

A 25-year study of 11 of the fragments now finds that the birds can come back—if the pieces are reconnected. The research was published in Public Library of Science ONE.

During the first year after land clearing, bird species such as the black-banded woodcreeper and the black-throated antshrike disappeared locally. Over time, as much as 70 percent of bird species disappeared from the smallest fragments.

But by 2007, cattle grazing in the area had been abandoned and the forest began to come back. As a result, of the 101 bird species measured in the area before forest cutting, 97 were living in at least one of the reconnecting forest fragments.

In other words, as lead author and L.S.U. ornithologist Phillip Stouffer says quote "developing second growth forest around fragments encourages recolonization." And that is some good news for the birds.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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