Equal but different: Natural ecotones are dissimilar to anthropic edges.
ABSTRACT: Increasing deforestation worldwide has expanded the interfaces between fragmented forests and non-forest habitats. Human-made edges are very different from the original forest cover, with different microclimatic conditions. Conversely, the natural transitions (i.e., ecotones) are distinct from human-made forest edges. The human-made forest edges are usually sharp associated with disturbances, with abrupt changes in temperature, humidity, luminosity and wind incidence towards the forest interior. However, the natural forest-lake ecotones, even when abrupt, are composed of a complex vegetal physiognomy, with canopy structures close to the ground level and a composition of herbaceous and arboreal species well adapted to this transition range. In the present study, fruit-feeding butterflies were used as models to investigate whether faunal assemblages in natural ecotones are more similar to the forest interior than to the anthropic edges. Butterflies were sampled monthly over one year in the Rio Doce State Park, Southeastern Brazil, following a standardized design using a total of 90 bait traps, in three different forest habitats (forest interior, forest ecotone and anthropic edges), in both canopy and understory. A total of 11,594 individuals from 98 butterfly species were collected (3,151 individuals from 79 species in the forest interior, 4,321 individuals from 87 species in the ecotone and 4,122 individuals from 83 species in the edge). The results indicated that the butterfly richness and diversity were higher in transition areas (ecotones and edges). The ecotone included a combination of butterfly species from the forest interior and from anthropic edges. However, species composition and dominance in the ecotone were similar to the forest interior in both vertical strata. These results suggest that human made forest edges are quite distinct from ecotones. Moreover, ecotones represent unique habitats accommodating species adapted to distinct ecological conditions, while anthropic edges accommodate only opportunistic species from open areas or upper canopies.
Project description:Edge effects alter insect biodiversity in several ways. However, we still have a limited understanding on simultaneous responses of ecological populations and assemblages to ecotones, especially in human modified landscapes. We analyze edge effects on dung beetle populations and assemblages between livestock pastures and native temperate forests (<i>Juniperus</i> and pine-oak forests (POFs)) to describe how species abundances and assemblage parameters respond to edge effects through gradients in forest-pasture ecotones. In <i>Juniperus</i> forest 13 species avoided the ecotones: six species showed greater abundance in forest interior and seven in pasturelands, while the other two species had a neutral response to the edge. In a different way, in POF we found five species avoiding the edge (four with greater abundance in pastures and only one in forest), two species had a neutral response, and two showed a unimodal pattern of abundance near to the edge. At the assemblage level edge effects are masked, as species richness, diversity, functional richness, functional evenness, and compositional incidence dissimilarity did not vary along forest-pasture ecotones. However, total abundance and functional divergence showed higher values in pastures in one of the two sampling localities. Also, assemblage similarity based on species' abundance showed a peak near to the edge in POF. We propose that conservation efforts in human-managed landscapes should focus on mitigating current and delayed edge effects. Ecotone management will be crucial in livestock dominated landscapes to conserve regional biodiversity and the environmental services carried out by dung beetles.
Project description:A major conservation challenge in mosaic landscapes is to understand how trait-specific responses to habitat edges affect bird communities, including potential cascading effects on bird functions providing ecosystem services to forests, such as pest control. Here, we examined how bird species richness, abundance and community composition varied from interior forest habitats and their edges into adjacent open habitats, within a multi-regional sampling scheme. We further analyzed variations in Conservation Value Index (CVI), Community Specialization Index (CSI) and functional traits across the forest-edge-open habitat gradient. Bird species richness, total abundance and CVI were significantly higher at forest edges while CSI peaked at interior open habitats, i.e., furthest from forest edge. In addition, there were important variations in trait- and species-specific responses to forest edges among bird communities. Positive responses to forest edges were found for several forest bird species with unfavorable conservation status. These species were in general insectivores, understorey gleaners, cavity nesters and long-distance migrants, all traits that displayed higher abundance at forest edges than in forest interiors or adjacent open habitats. Furthermore, consistently with predictions, negative edge effects were recorded in some forest specialist birds and in most open-habitat birds, showing increasing densities from edges to interior habitats. We thus suggest that increasing landscape-scale habitat complexity would be beneficial to declining species living in mosaic landscapes combining small woodlands and open habitats. Edge effects between forests and adjacent open habitats may also favor bird functional guilds providing valuable ecosystem services to forests in longstanding fragmented landscapes.
Project description:Global or regional environmental changes in climate or land use have been increasingly implied in shifts in boundaries (ecotones) between adjacent ecosystems such as beech or oak-dominated forests and forest-steppe ecotones that frequently co-occur near the southern range limits of deciduous forest biome in Europe. Yet, our ability to detect changes in biological communities across these ecosystems, or to understand their environmental drivers, can be hampered when different sampling methods are required to characterize biological communities of the adjacent but ecologically different ecosystems. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) have been shown to be particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and vegetation and they require different sampling methods in closed vs. open habitats. We compared ant assemblages of closed-forests (beech- or oak-dominated) and open forest-steppe habitats in southwestern Carpathians using methods for closed-forest (litter sifting) and open habitats (pitfall trapping), and developed an integrated sampling approach to characterize changes in ant assemblages across these adjacent ecosystems. Using both methods, we collected 5,328 individual ant workers from 28 species. Neither method represented ant communities completely, but pitfall trapping accounted for more species (24) than litter sifting (16). Although pitfall trapping characterized differences in species richness and composition among the ecosystems better, with beech forest being most species poor and ecotone most species rich, litter sifting was more successful in identifying characteristic litter-dwelling species in oak-dominated forest. The integrated sampling approach using both methods yielded more accurate characterization of species richness and composition, and particularly so in species-rich forest-steppe habitat where the combined sample identified significantly higher number of species compared to either of the two methods on their own. Thus, an integrated sampling approach should be used to fully characterize changes in ant assemblages across ecosystem boundaries, or with vegetation change over time, and particularly so in species-rich habitats such as forest-steppe ecotones.
Project description:Understanding complex, dynamic, and diverse ecosystems is essential for developing sound management and conservation strategies. Gravel-bed river floodplains are composed of an interlinked mosaic of aquatic and terrestrial habitats hosting a diverse, specialized, and endangered fauna. Therefore, they serve as excellent models to investigate the biodiversity of multiple ecotones and related edge effects. In this study, we investigated the abundance, composition, richness, and conservation status of beetle assemblages at varying sediment depth (0, 0.1, 0.6 and 1.1 m), distance from the channel (1, 5, 20, and 60-100 m, and 5 m within the riparian forest), and time of the year (February-November) across a 200 m-wide gravel bar at the near-natural Tagliamento River (Italy), to detect edge effects in four floodplain ecotones: aquatic-terrestrial, forest-active floodplain, sediment-air, and sediment-groundwater. We used conventional pitfall traps and novel tube traps to sample beetles comparably on the sediment surface and within the unsaturated sediments. We found a total of 308 beetle species (including 87 of conservation concern) that showed multiple, significant positive edge effects across the floodplain ecotones, mainly driven by spatial heterogeneity: Total and red list beetle abundance and richness peaked on the sediment surface, at channel margins, and at the edge of the riparian forest. All ecotones possessed edge/habitat specialists. Most red list species occurred on the sediment surface, including five species previously considered extinct--yet two of these species occurred in higher densities in the unsaturated sediments. Conservation and management efforts along gravel-bed rivers must therefore promote a dynamic flow and sediment regime to create and maintain habitat heterogeneity and ecotone diversity, which support a unique and high biodiversity.
Project description:Biological edge effects are often assessed in high quality focal habitats that are negatively influenced by human-modified low quality matrix habitats. A deeper understanding of the possibilities for positive edge effects in matrix habitats bordering focal habitats (e.g. spillover effects) is, however, essential for enhancing landscape-level resilience to human alterations. We surveyed epixylic (dead wood inhabiting) forest-interior cryptogams (lichens, bryophytes, and fungi) associated with mature old-growth forests in 30 young managed Swedish boreal forest stands bordering a mature forest of high conservation value. In each young stand we registered species occurrences on coarse dead wood in transects 0-50 m from the border between stand types. We quantified the effect of distance from the mature forest on the occurrence of forest-interior species in the young stands, while accounting for local environment and propagule sources. For comparison we also surveyed epixylic open-habitat (associated with open forests) and generalist cryptogams. Species composition of epixylic cryptogams in young stands differed with distance from the mature forest: the frequency of occurrence of forest-interior species decreased with increasing distance whereas it increased for open-habitat species. Generalists were unaffected by distance. Epixylic, boreal forest-interior cryptogams do occur in matrix habitats such as clear-cuts. In addition, they are associated with the matrix edge because of a favourable microclimate closer to the mature forest on southern matrix edges. Retention and creation of dead wood in clear-cuts along the edges to focal habitats is a feasible way to enhance the long-term persistence of epixylic habitat specialists in fragmented landscapes. The proposed management measures should be performed in the whole stand as it matures, since microclimatic edge effects diminish as the matrix habitat matures. We argue that management that aims to increase habitat quality in matrix habitats bordering focal habitats should increase the probability of long-term persistence of habitat specialists.
Project description:Ecotones can increase free-living species richness, but little is known about how parasites respond to ecotones. Here, we use parasite communities in raccoons (Procyon lotor) to test the hypothesis that parasite communities can be divided into core and satellite species, each with fundamentally different responses to ecotones. We used published parasite surveys to classify parasites as common core or rare satellite species, and then surveyed raccoons in coastal California to examine how proximity to two aquatic ecotones altered parasite communities. Raccoons near ecotones had more satellite and fewer core parasite species. Specifically, the marine ecotone increased parasite diversity by adding satellite species to a persistent core community, whereas the freshwater ecotone shifted the community from core to satellite species without a net change in parasite richness. We hypothesize that increased parasite richness at the marine ecotone resulted from increased diet diversity, but that raccoons were sinks for some parasites. Increased exposure to rare parasites at ecotones has implications for wildlife health and provides insight into observed associations between ecotones and emerging disease.
Project description:Clearing of dry forests globally creates edges between remnant forest and open anthropogenic habitats. We used flight intercept traps to evaluate how forest beetle communities are influenced by distance from such edges, together with vertical height, spatial location, and local vegetation structure, in an urbanising region (Brisbane, Australia). Species composition (but not total abundance or richness) differed greatly between ground and canopy. Species composition also varied strongly among sites at both ground and canopy levels, but almost all other significant effects occurred only at ground level, where: species richness declined from edge to interior; composition differed between positions near edges (<10 m) and interiors (> 50 m); high local canopy cover was associated with greater total abundance and richness and differing composition; and greater distances to the city centre were associated with increased total abundances and altered composition. Analyses of individual indicator species associated with this variation enabled further biological interpretations. A global literature synthesis showed that most spatially well-replicated studies of edge effects on ground-level beetles within forest fragments have likewise found that positions within tens of metres from edges with open anthropogenic habitats had increased species richness and different compositions from forest interior sites, with fewer effects on abundance. Accordingly, negative edge effects will not prevent relatively small compact fragments (if >10-20 ha) from supporting forest-like beetle communities, although indirect consequences of habitat degradation remain a threat. Retention of multiple spatially scattered forest areas will also be important in conserving forest-dependent beetles, given high levels of between-site diversity.
Project description:Most edges are anthropogenic in origin, but are distinguishable by their maintaining processes (natural vs. continued anthropogenic interventions: forestry, agriculture, urbanization). We hypothesized that the dissimilar edge histories will be reflected in the diversity and assemblage composition of inhabitants. Testing this "history-based edge effect" hypothesis, we evaluated published information on a common insect group, ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in forest edges. A meta-analysis showed that the diversity-enhancing properties of edges significantly differed according to their history. Forest edges maintained by natural processes had significantly higher species richness than their interiors, while edges with continued anthropogenic influence did not. The filter function of edges was also essentially different depending on their history. For forest specialist species, edges maintained by natural processes were penetrable, allowing these species to move right through the edges, while edges still under anthropogenic interventions were impenetrable, preventing the dispersal of forest specialists out of the forest. For species inhabiting the surrounding matrix (open-habitat and generalist species), edges created by forestry activities were penetrable, and such species also invaded the forest interior. However, natural forest edges constituted a barrier and prevented the invasion of matrix species into the forest interior. Preserving and protecting all edges maintained by natural processes, and preventing anthropogenic changes to their structure, composition, and characteristics are key factors to sustain biodiversity in forests. Moreover, the increasing presence of anthropogenic edges in a landscape is to be avoided, as they contribute to the loss of biodiversity. Simultaneously, edges under continued anthropogenic disturbance should be restored by increasing habitat heterogeneity.
Project description:Understanding the response of species with differing life-history traits to habitat edges and habitat conversion helps predict their likelihood of persistence across changing landscape. In Brazil's Atlantic Forest, we evaluated frog richness and abundance by breeding guild at four distances from the edge of a reserve: i) 200 m inside the forest, ii) 50 m inside the forest, iii) at the forest edge, and iv) 50 m inside three different converted habitats (coffee plantation, non-native Eucalyptus plantation, and abandoned pastures, hereafter matrix types). By sampling a dry and a wet season, we recorded 622 individual frogs representing 29 species, of which three were undescribed. Breeding guild (i.e. bromeliad, leaf-litter, and water-body breeders) was the most important variable explaining frog distributions in relation to edge effects and matrix types. Leaf-litter and bromeliad breeders decreased in richness and abundance from the forest interior toward the matrix habitats. Water-body breeders increased in richness toward the matrix and remained relatively stable in abundance across distances. Number of large trees (i.e. DBH > 15 cm) and bromeliads best explained frog richness and abundance across distances. Twenty species found in the interior of the forest were not found in any matrix habitat. Richness and abundance across breeding guilds were higher in the rainy season but frog distributions were similar across the four distances in the two seasons. Across matrix types, leaf-litter species primarily used Eucalyptus plantations, whereas water-body species primarily used coffee plantations. Bromeliad breeders were not found inside any matrix habitat. Our study highlights the importance of primary forest for bromeliad and leaf-litter breeders. We propose that water-body breeders use edge and matrix habitats to reach breeding habitats along the valleys. Including life-history characteristics, such as breeding guild, can improve predictions of frog distributions in response to edge effect and matrix types, and can guide more effective management and conservation actions.
Project description:The recent introduction in a tropical agricultural environment of a weedy open-habitat plant (Solanum myriacanthum) and subsequent host range expansion of a common forest-edge butterfly (Mechanitis menapis) onto that plant provides an opportunity to examine reconfiguration of tritrophic networks in human-impacted landscapes. The objectives of this study were (1) determine if the caterpillars on the exotic host are more or less limited by plant defenses (bottom-up forces) and if they experience enemy release (decrease of top-down pressure) and (2) define how anthropic open pasture habitat influences the herbivore's tritrophic niche. Field and laboratory monitoring of larval survival and performance on a native (Solanum acerifolium) host plant and the exotic (S. myriacanthum) host plant were conducted in the Mindo Valley, Ecuador. Plant physical defenses were also measured. Results showed that larval mortality was mostly top-down on S. acerifolium, linked to parasitism, but mostly bottom-up on S. myriacanthum, possibly linked to observed increased plant defenses. Thus, in the absence of co-evolved relationships, herbivores on the exotic host experienced little top-down regulation, but stronger bottom-up pressures from plant defenses. These findings provide a rare empirical example of enemy-free space as a mechanism underlying host-range expansion. S. myriacanthum was less colonized in open pastures than in semi-shaded habitats (forest edges, thickets): fewer eggs were found, suggesting limited dispersal of adult butterflies into the harsh open environments, and the survival rate of first instar larvae was lower than on semi-shaded plants, likely linked to the stronger defenses of sun-grown leaves. These findings show how environmental conditions modulate the rewiring of trophic networks in heavily impacted landscapes, and limit a biocontrol by a native herbivore on an invasive plant in open habitats.