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Wildfires in Bamboo-Dominated Amazonian Forest: Impacts on Above-Ground Biomass and Biodiversity

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Jos Barlow
  • Juliana M. Silveira
  • Luiz A. M. Mestre
  • Rafael B. Andrade
  • Gabriela Camacho D'Andrea
  • Julio Louzada
  • Fernando Z. Vaz-de-Mello
  • Izaya Numata
  • Sebastien Lacau
  • Mark A. Cochrane
Article numbere33373
Journal publication date9/03/2012
JournalPLoS ONE
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


Fire has become an increasingly important disturbance event in south-western Amazonia. We conducted the first assessment of the ecological impacts of these wildfires in 2008, sampling forest structure and biodiversity along twelve 500 m transects in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, Acre, Brazil. Six transects were placed in unburned forests and six were in forests that burned during a series of forest fires that occurred from August to October 2005. Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) calculations, based on Landsat reflectance data, indicate that all transects were similar prior to the fires. We sampled understorey and canopy vegetation, birds using both mist nets and point counts, coprophagous dung beetles and the leaf-litter ant fauna. Fire had limited influence upon either faunal or floral species richness or community structure responses, and stems <10 cm DBH were the only group to show highly significant (p = 0.001) community turnover in burned forests. Mean aboveground live biomass was statistically indistinguishable in the unburned and burned plots, although there was a significant increase in the total abundance of dead stems in burned plots. Comparisons with previous studies suggest that wildfires had much less effect upon forest structure and biodiversity in these south-western Amazonian forests than in central and eastern Amazonia, where most fire research has been undertaken to date. We discuss potential reasons for the apparent greater resilience of our study plots to wildfire, examining the role of fire intensity, bamboo dominance, background rates of disturbance, landscape and soil conditions.