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Abstract and Figures

Roadless areas (RLAs) are places with little to no influence of roads, usually sustaining well-preserved habitats, whereas road-effects zones (REZs) are areas affected by roads. Here, we map and characterize RLAs and REZs in Brazil, using national and international road network, land use and land cover, and protected areas databases. Following a global scale study, RLAs were defined as areas within ≥ 1 km from roads. Considering only paved roads, 8.2 M km2 (95%) of Brazil’s territory is RLAs, a figure that reduces to 6.8 M km2 (81%) when all built roads are included. In Brazil, the furthest location from roads is in the Amazon, 321 km away from the nearest road. Although RLAs differs among the Brazilian ecosystems, some common patterns emerge: (i) There is a lower percentage of natural vegetation cover on REZs than in RLAs, except for the Pampa; (ii) RLAs are mostly composed by natural vegetation, except in the Atlantic Forest, where farming lands dominate; (iii) protected RLAs are mostly covered by natural vegetation. Only 36.9% of Brazil’s RLAs are inside protected areas or indigenous lands. Even so, given the ongoing expansion of the road network and agriculture frontier in Brazil, it is unequivocal the role of those protected areas in stopping those drivers, making it paramount to explicitly include RLAs when planning new protected areas. Lastly, we found a positive relationship between a RLA patch size and its native vegetation cover as well as a positive relationship between the percentage of a protected area covered by RLA and its native vegetation cover.
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https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-022-01953-9
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Roadless areas inBrazil: land cover, land use, andconservation status
ArturLupinetti‑Cunha1 · DouglasWilliamCirino1· MarianaM.Vale2· SimoneR.Freitas3
Received: 5 November 2021 / Accepted: 6 July 2022
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2022
Abstract
Roadless areas (RLAs) are places with little to no influence of roads, usually sustaining well-preserved habitats, whereas road-
effects zones (REZs) are areas affected by roads. Here, we map and characterize RLAs and REZs in Brazil, using national
and international road network, land use and land cover, and protected areas databases. Following a global scale study,
RLAs were defined as areas within ≥ 1km from roads. Considering only paved roads, 8.2M km2 (95%) of Brazil’s territory
is RLAs, a figure that reduces to 6.8M km2 (81%) when all built roads are included. In Brazil, the furthest location from
roads is in the Amazon, 321km away from the nearest road. Although RLAs differs among the Brazilian ecosystems, some
common patterns emerge: (i) There is a lower percentage of natural vegetation cover on REZs than in RLAs, except for the
Pampa; (ii) RLAs are mostly composed by natural vegetation, except in the Atlantic Forest, where farming lands dominate;
(iii) protected RLAs are mostly covered by natural vegetation. Only 36.9% of Brazil’s RLAs are inside protected areas or
indigenous lands. Even so, given the ongoing expansion of the road network and agriculture frontier in Brazil, it is unequivo-
cal the role of those protected areas in stopping those drivers, making it paramount to explicitly include RLAs when planning
new protected areas. Lastly, we found a positive relationship between a RLA patch size and its native vegetation cover as
well as a positive relationship between the percentage of a protected area covered by RLA and its native vegetation cover.
Keywords Habitat fragmentation· Highway· Road ecology· Tropical forest· Amazon· Protected areas
Introduction
The concept of roadless areas (RLAs) has emerged to
define places where there is little to no influence of road
infrastructure, representing a less impacted and well-pre-
served environment capable of providing several ecosys-
tem services (Strittholt and Dellasala 2001; IENE 2014;
Selva etal. 2015). RLAs have larger and more connected
habitat patches, which are essential for disturbance-sen-
sitive and endangered species (Blake etal. 2008; Chen
and Roberts 2008) and generally have lower risks of
fires, deforestation, hunting, and exploitation of natural
resources (e.g., Healey 2020; Kleinschroth and Healey
2017; Laurance etal. 2006; Pfaff etal. 2007; Wilkie
etal. 2000). This distancing from roads also enables the
regeneration of tropical forests to occur more efficiently
(Selva etal. 2015), because of their connectivity with
other patches, which work as a source of biodiversity that
assists the regeneration process (Leite etal. 2013).
In the other side of the spectrum, road-effect zones
(REZs) are the areas directly affected by a road (Forman
and Alexander 1998; Forman and Deblinger 2000). The
Communicated by Tony Weir
* Artur Lupinetti-Cunha
artlupinetti@gmail.com
Douglas William Cirino
douglaswcirino@hotmail.com
Mariana M. Vale
mvale.eco@gmail.com
Simone R. Freitas
simonerfreitas.ufabc@gmail.com
1 Department ofEcology, Biosciences Institute, University
ofSão Paulo, Rua Do Matão, Tv. 14, SãoPaulo,
SãoPaulo05508-090, Brazil
2 Department ofEcology, Federal University ofRio de
Janeiro, Av. Carlos Chagas Filho, 373, Cidade Universitária,
RiodeJaneiro, RiodeJaneiro21044-020, Brazil
3 Center forNatural andHuman Sciences, Federal
University ofABC, Av. dos Estados, 5001, SantoAndré,
SãoPaulo09210-580, Brazil
/ Published online: 15 July 2022
Regional Environmental Change (2022) 22: 96
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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