The role of secondary forests in mitigating fragmentation-related extinctions

Secondary forests are the predominant type of forest cover across the tropics. They provide myriad services and natural products to human populations worldwide and key habitat for countless forest-dwelling species. Although some fragmentation-related extinctions can be averted by forest regeneration, the role of second growth in biodiversity conservation remains controversial. Central to the debate is the capacity of secondary forests to preserve old-growth specialist species and to buffer the impacts of fragmentation on assemblages living in forest remnants. The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) is one of the world’s largest and longest-running experimental investigations. Spanning an area of ∼1000 km2 in the Central Brazilian Amazon, the BDFFP was initially designed to assess how fragment size influences biodiversity and ecological processes within rainforests. However, it has transcended its initial objectives, offering a wealth of insights into the long-term ecological dynamics of fragmented landscapes and their intricate relationship with forest regeneration. This talk will provide an overview of the research conducted over the last decades at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), examining with particular detail the taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic responses of bats, one of the richest Amazonian mammalian groups, to forest regeneration. I will explore area, edge, and matrix effects and investigate time-related complexities related to both short- and long-term responses to changes in matrix structure and composition. Finally, taking the BDFFP as an illustrative example, we will discuss the conservation implications of these findings for tropical biodiversity and propose avenues for future research in temporal ecology.


Ricardo Rocha is a conservation biologist from Portugal, with a specialization in tropical forests and island ecosystems. His research is aimed at providing the evidence required to support conservation decision-making in the face of contemporary global change. Ricardo’s particular focus lies in identifying ways to restore biodiversity in the aftermath of habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as managing human-modified landscapes to retain biodiversity and maximize ecosystem services. During his Ph.D., Ricardo spent over two and a half years studying bat communities at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in the Central Amazon region of Brazil. He then joined the Conservation Science Group of the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, where he worked on the Conservation Evidence project. Simultaneously, he served as a scientific adviser for Lonely Planet, contributing to non-fiction wildlife books for children. For his second postdoctoral research position, Ricardo investigated the role of bats as suppressors of agricultural insect pests and human disease vectors in Macaronesia, West Africa and Madagascar. Rocha received the European Early Career Conservation Award from the SCB Europe Section in 2020 became a National Geographic Explorer in the same year. Ricardo is currently an Associate Professor in Conservation Science at the Department of Biology, University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow at Jesus College.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.
Date: 14 June 2024, 16:15 (Friday, 8th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Dyson Perrins Building, off South Parks Road OX1 3QY
Venue Details: main lecture theatre
Speaker: Ricardo Rocha (University of Oxford)
Organising department: Environmental Change Institute
Organisers: Carlyn Samuel (University of Oxford), Jane Applegarth (University of Oxford, Oxford University Centre for the Environment)
Part of: Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and the Biodiversity Network seminar series
Booking required?: Required
Booking url:
Audience: Public
Editor: Carlyn Samuel