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Ecosystem Decay

  • By: Jennifer S. Lalley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Ecosystem decay is a term coined by the conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy to describe the process by which species become locally extinct and ecosystem functions deteriorate following habitat fragmentation. The term has become synonymous with an ongoing, ambitious study of ecosystem decay in the Amazon rain forest, initiated by Lovejoy and colleagues in the 1980s. In this study, forest fragmentation has been found to have unexpected and cascading impacts on species remaining in forest fragments. This entry first describes the process of ecosystem decay and then examines impacts on the Amazon rain forest that have been identified by researchers with the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project.

It has been long recognized that habitat fragmentation is a leading cause of species loss worldwide. This widespread threat ...

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