Utility of landscape mosaics and boundaries in forest conservation decision making in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil

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We evaluated changes in the Atlantic Forest landscape over the last 40 years based on changes in boundaries and mosaics, including the hypothetical landscape resulting from the application of Brazilian laws for forest protection. Mosaics were identified as sets of land-use patches with a similar pattern of boundaries. Landscapes of different years, therefore, can be distinguished by differences in mosaics. We developed a technique to identify boundaries between patches from land-use maps using ArcGis® and to build the patch x boundary matrix required for mosaic identification by means of a factorial and cluster analysis. The mosaics were characterized by some key uses as well as by their boundaries with other land uses. The mosaics were scored for forest conservation according to five issues: landscape permeability, cover, availability, quality, and fragmentation of forest. The values were based on land use and boundary patterns. Although Brazilian laws regarding forest protection have promoted conservation and the hypothetical legal landscape has presented the highest forest habitat availability, this expansion perpetuates a boundary pattern that complicates conservation and management, thus increasing the pressure on forest patches and favoring the further fragmentation of protected forest patches. These conclusions cannot be reached by simply recording changes in land uses.