The lowlands of eastern and northeastern Bolivia are characterized by a transition between the humid evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin and the deciduous thorn-scrub vegetation of the Gran Chaco. Within this landscape lies one of the world’s best preserved areas: the ecoregion known as the Chiquitano dry forest, where deforestation patterns over a 30 year period were analyzed. Results indicate that the area of the natural cover was reduced from 97.21 % before 1976 to 82.10 % in 2008, causing significant change in the landscape, especially in the spatial configuration of forest cover. The density of forest fragments increased from 0.073 patches per 100 ha before 1976 to 0.509 in 2008, with a mean distance between patches of 151 and 210 m over the same period, leading to a considerable reduction in the fragment sizes, from 1,204 ha before 1976 to a mere 54 in 2008. This pattern, observed in forests, does not occur in the savannas because, on one hand the savanna area is much lower compared to that of forests, and on the other because the deforestation process tended to be concentrated within forested areas. Based on the observed patterns, it is possible that in the future the natural landscapes will be substituted principally by anthropic landscapes, if there is no change in the economic and land distribution policies. If this process continues, it will stimulate the expansion of mechanized agriculture and the colonization of new areas, which will lead to further deforestation and landscape fragmentation.
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Acknowledgments We are grateful to the reviewers for their contributions. We thank Alex E. Jahn and Daniel Villarroel for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We are also grateful to the Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado for sharing their extensive data set on deforestation. This manuscript was funded by the CNPq fellowship EXP-C (Projeto Sinergia-nº6 do CTHidro) to JNPL.