Landscape pattern changes over 25 years across a hotspot zone in southern Brazil

Forest fragmentation caused by human activities has many implications for natural landscapes, such as habitat reduction and the loss of biodiversity. This study investigated the temporal fragmentation process of forest remnants in a strongly agro-industrialised region in southern Brazil over 25 years. The studied watershed area hosts two important typologies of the Atlantic Forest biome as well as Quaternary remnants of the Brazilian Savanna biome, which are considered hotspots of biodiversity and reflect the intense process of forest fragmentation caused by Brazilian urban and agro-industrial development. Thus, studies encompassing multitemporal scales are paramount to understanding changes in forest patterns and are fundamental for trend predictions of landscape dynamics. To perform the calculation of the mean normalised difference vegetation index, Landsat satellite images from 1991 to 2016 were processed using SPRING® software. Subsequently, FRAGSTATS® software was used to calculate landscape metrics. A reduction in the number of forest fragments since 1991 was observed, with a maximum amount of 5 243 fragments in 1993 that declined to 4 015 fragments in 2016. Although the number of fragments in the watershed decreased, the mean area increased by 72.9% and the mean of the shape index increased from 1.3 in 1991 to 1.5 in 2016. In addition, there was a 64.7% increase in the edge density and a reduction of 35.6 m in the isolation between the nearest neighbours. The degree of isolation of the fragments underwent a process of expansion and reduction when compared to 1991, presenting results that support the hypothesis that the Atlantic Forest is in a process of stabilisation and forest restoration.