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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 8;105(14):5426-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800460105. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Pervasive impact of large-scale edge effects on a beetle community.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, United Kingdom. r.ewers@imperial.ac.uk


Habitat edges are a ubiquitous feature of modern fragmented landscapes, but a tendency for researchers to restrict sampling designs to relatively small spatial scales means that edge effects are known to influence faunal communities over small spatial scales of only 20-250 m. However, we found striking changes in the abundance and community composition of 769 New Zealand beetle species ( approximately 26,000 individuals) across very long edge gradients. We show that almost 90% of species respond significantly to habitat edges and that the abundances of 20% of common species were affected by edges at scales >250 m. Moreover, as many as one in eight common species had edge effects that appeared to penetrate as far as 1 km into habitat patches. Even 1 km inside forest, beetle communities differed in species richness, beta-diversity (spatial turnover), and composition from the deep forest interior. Spatially explicit models of fragmented landscapes have shown that such large-scale edge effects can lead to an 80% reduction in the population size of interior forest species in even very large fragments. Moreover, such large-scale edge effects can drive species that inhabit central habitat core-which are among the most threatened species in fragmented landscapes-to local extinction from habitat fragments and protected areas. In a global analysis of protected areas, we show that kilometer-scale edge effects may compromise the ability of more than three-quarters of the world's forested reserves to conserve the community biostructures that are unique to forest interiors.

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