Washington: Scientists have claimed that species living in rainforest fragments could be far more likely to disappear than it was previously thought.
In a study spanning two decades, the researchers witnessed the near-complete extinction of native small mammals on forest islands created by a large hydroelectric reservoir in Thailand.
"It was like ecological Armageddon. Nobody imagined we`d see such catastrophic local extinctions," Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore, who led the study, said.
The study is considered important because forests around the world are being rapidly felled and chopped up into small island-like fragments.
"It`s vital that we understand what happens to species in forest fragments," Antony Lynam of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said.
"The fate of much of the world`s biodiversity is going to depend on it," he said.
The study was motivated by a desire to understand how long species can live in forest fragments.
If they persist for many decades, this gives conservationists a window of time to create wildlife corridors or restore surrounding forests to reduce the harmful effects of forest isolation.
However, the researchers saw native small mammals vanish with alarming speed, with just a handful remaining - on average, less than one individual per island - after 25 years.
The study is published in the leading journal Science.