Many species of birds and animals will soon disappear due to the increased fragmentation of tropical forests around the world.

Tropical forests are hotspots of biological diversity and currently occupy about 6 percent of earth's land surface, which is less than half of the area that they covered a few decades back. Conservationists claim disappearing forests would lead to extinction of many species of birds and animals.

The new study shows that we might have underestimated the effects of fragmented forest cover on animal survival. Large developmental projects such as dams, roads, mines and industries are the main reasons for forest fragmentation. Previous research has shown that these projects affect the survival of large mammals that require a continuous stretch of forest-land.

"Tropical forests remain one of the last great bastions of biodiversity, but they continue to be felled and fragmented into small 'islands' around the world," said Professor Corey Bradshaw, Director Ecological Modelling at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and co-author of the study.

The study was based on data from a forest in Thailand. Researchers found that construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the forest led to the extinction of native animal species in just two decades.

"It was like ecological Armageddon," said Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore, lead author of the study. "Nobody imagined we'd see such catastrophic local extinctions."

The scientists conducted the study to understand the effects of forest fragmentation on animal survival. They had hoped that if animals survived in small pockets of forests, it would give conservationists some time to plan strategies for their protection.

However, the study showed that forest fragmentation increased the rate at which small native animals went extinct.

Additionally, experts found that the native animals had to deal with the invasion of the Malayan field rat. Within a few years, the invasive pest displaced the native animals.

'The bottom line is that we must conserve large, intact habitats for nature," said Luke Gibson in a news release. "That's the only way we can ensure biodiversity will survive."

The study is published in the journal Science.