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Edge‐Effect Interactions in Fragmented and Patchy Landscapes

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Abstract

Ecological edges are increasingly recognized as drivers of landscape patterns and ecosystem processes. In fragmented and patchy landscapes (e.g., a fragmented forest or a savanna with scattered termite mounds), edges can become so numerous that their effects pervade the entire landscape. Results of recent studies in such landscapes show that edge effects can be altered by the presence or proximity of other nearby edges. We considered the theoretical significance of edge‐effect interactions, illustrated various landscape configurations that support them and reviewed existing research on this topic. Results of studies from a variety of locations and ecosystem types show that edge‐effect interactions can have significant consequences for ecosystems and conservation, including higher tree mortality rates in tropical rainforest fragments, reduced bird densities in grassland fragments, and bush encroachment and reduced wildlife densities in a tropical savanna. To clarify this underappreciated concept and synthesize existing work, we devised a conceptual framework for edge‐effect interactions. We first worked to reduce terminological confusion by clarifying differences among terms such as edge intersection and edge interaction. For cases in which nearby edge effects interact, we proposed three possible forms of interaction: strengthening (presence of a second edge causes stronger edge effects), weakening (presence of a second edge causes weaker edge effects), and emergent (edge effects change completely in the presence of a second edge). By clarifying terms and concepts, this framework enables more precise descriptions of edge‐effect interactions and facilitates comparisons of results among disparate study systems and response variables. A better understanding of edge‐effect interactions will pave the way for more appropriate modeling, conservation, and management in complex landscapes.

Interacciones del Efecto de Borde en Paisajes Fragmentados
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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