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Landscape forest loss changes sunfleck dynamics in forest fragments of southern Bahia, Brazil

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2021

Igor Pires Reis
Applied Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16, Salobrinho, Ilheus, BahiaCEP 45662-900, Brazil
Larissa Rocha-Santos
Applied Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16, Salobrinho, Ilheus, BahiaCEP 45662-900, Brazil
Adrielle Leal
Applied Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16, Salobrinho, Ilheus, BahiaCEP 45662-900, Brazil
Deborah Faria
Applied Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16, Salobrinho, Ilheus, BahiaCEP 45662-900, Brazil
Marcelo Schramm Mielke*
Applied Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16, Salobrinho, Ilheus, BahiaCEP 45662-900, Brazil
Author for Correspondence:*Marcelo Schramm Mielke, Email:


Landscape-scale habitat loss can change the floristic composition of forest fragments, affecting the survival of specific groups of plants, as shade-tolerant and emergent trees. This increasing in tree mortality creates forest canopy gaps of different sizes that ultimately determine the solar radiation available in the forest understorey. We conducted a study aiming to assess how the loss of forest cover at landscape level (i.e. deforestation) affects the sunfleck dynamics, a proxy of light regime in forest understorey. We expected that fragments located in landscapes with less forest cover have a high number of larger canopy gaps and, consequently, long-lasting sunflecks. In each forest fragment, a 100 per 50 m plot was established, and in each plot, we took 10 hemispherical photographs. The images were analysed using the Gap Light Analyzer software. The sunflecks were divided into six temporal classes. We evidenced that landscape-scale deforestation increased the frequency of all sunfleck intervals >8 min, particularly the long-lasting (> 32 min) sunflecks. We propose that the increasing frequency of long-lasting sunflecks reduces suitability of microhabitat to some shade-tolerant species in local fragments, a potential proximal mechanism contributing to compositional shifts of tree assemblages observed in forest fragments within deforested landscapes.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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