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Distance to range edge determines sensitivity to deforestation

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 11 June 2019

This article has been updated


It is generally assumed that deforestation affects a species consistently across space, however populations near their geographic range edge may exist at their niche limits and therefore be more sensitive to disturbance. We found that both within and across Atlantic Forest bird species, populations are more sensitive to deforestation when near their range edge. In fact, the negative effects of deforestation on bird occurrences switched to positive in the range core (>829 km), in line with Ellenberg’s rule. We show that the proportion of populations at their range core and edge varies across Brazil, suggesting deforestation effects on communities, and hence the most appropriate conservation action, also vary geographically.

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Fig. 1: Intraspecific sensitivity to habitat loss is determined by the distance to range edge.
Fig. 2: Model predictions of the probability of species incidence from forest cover and distance from range edge.
Fig. 3: The effects of deforestation on birds are variable across the Atlantic Forest.

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Data availability

Bird occurrence datasets and derived datasets are available from We do not have rights to redistribute the underlying forest cover (SOS Mata Atlântica, Instituto Florestal) and range polygon (BirdLife) data, but these datasets are available for use under licence.

Code availability

Code used to perform the analysis is available from

Change history

  • 11 June 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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We thank R. D. Holt, C. Rahbek, M. J. Crawley and R. Ewers for comments on the study and manuscript. This paper represents a contribution to the Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment Initiative of Imperial College. We acknowledge the use of the Imperial College Research Computing Service ( This research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant nos. NE/H016228/1, NE/K016393/1) and FAPESP (process no. 2012/51872-5).

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Authors and Affiliations



L.A., P.F.D., J.H.H., J.C.M., A.U. and C.B.L. collected the data. C.D.L.O., S.M., J.M.T. and C.B.L. analysed the data. C.D.L.O., S.M. and C.B.L. wrote the paper. All authors contributed to the text.

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Correspondence to Cristina Banks-Leite.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–4 and Supplementary Tables 1–3

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Data 1

List of species detected in each study and number of sites in which the species was detected.

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Orme, C.D.L., Mayor, S., dos Anjos, L. et al. Distance to range edge determines sensitivity to deforestation. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 886–891 (2019).

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