Avian ecological succession in the Amazon: a long-term case study following experimental deforestation.
1. Approximately 20% of the Brazilian Amazon has now been deforested, and the Amazon is currently experiencing the highest rates of deforestation in a decade, leading to large-scale land-use changes. Roads have consistently been implicated as drivers of ongoing Amazon deforestation and may act as corridors to facilitate species invasions. Long-term data, however, are necessary to determine how ecological succession alters avian communities following deforestation and whether established roads lead to a constant influx of new species. 2. We used data across nearly 40 years from a large-scale deforestation experiment in the central Amazon to examine the avian colonization process in a spatial and temporal framework, considering the role that roads may play in facilitating colonization. 3. Since 1979, 139 species that are not part of the original forest avifauna have been recorded, including more secondary forest species than expected based on the regional species pool. Among the 35 species considered to have colonized and become established, a disproportionate number were secondary forest birds (63%), almost all of which first appeared during the 1980s. These new residents comprise about 13% of the current community of permanent residents. 4. Widespread generalists associated with secondary forest colonized quickly following deforestation, with few new species added after the first decade, despite a stable road connection. Few species associated with riverine forest or specialized habitats colonized, despite road connection to their preferred source habitat. Colonizing species remained restricted to anthropogenic habitats and did not infiltrate old-growth forests nor displace forest birds. 5. Deforestation and expansion of road networks into terra firme rainforest will continue to create degraded anthropogenic habitat. Even so, the initial pulse of colonization by nonprimary forest bird species was not the beginning of a protracted series of invasions in this study, and the process appears to be reversible by forest succession.