Forest fragmentation is a landscape-level process that consists of two interdependent components: forest loss and spatial pattern changes to which species respond differently. Efficient programs to conserve native biodiversity require a sound understanding of the relation between forest cover and the spatial pattern of forest fragments, but these issues remain almost unknown for subtropical ecosystems. We examine the forest fragmentation of the Gran Chaco in central Argentina over the last 30 years. In particular, we quantify forest loss and spatial pattern changes using random sampling techniques on multi-temporal forest cover maps (1979, 1999 and 2010). We analyzed forest fragmentation according to the following steps: (i) selection of fragmentation pattern indices (PIs), (ii) sampling on forest cover maps and PIs calculation, (iii) statistical comparison by bootstrapping, and (iv) trajectory analysis. During the last three decades, forest cover declined dramatically (~90%) and the selected pattern metrics (MPS, PD, ED) vary significantly (p= 0.05). The results depict a devastating situation of dry Chaco forests with a progressive reduction to few small fragments during the last decades. Distinguishing habitat spatial pattern changes from forest loss support the identification of specific conservation actions necessary to mitigate the effects of fragmentation in these ecosystems
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