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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Structural variation of forest edges across Europe

Meeussen, Camille; Govaert, Sanne; Vanneste, Thomas; Calders, Kim; Bollmann, Kurt; Brunet, Jorg; Cousins, Sara A. O.; Diekmann, Martin; Graae, Bente J.; Hedwall, Per-Ola; Moorthy, Sruthi M. Krishna; Iacopetti, Giovanni; Lenoir, Jonathan; Lindmo, Sigrid; Orczewska, Anna; Ponette, Quentin; Plue, Jan; Selvi, Federico; Spicher, Fabien; Tolosano, Matteo;
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Forest edges are interfaces between forest interiors and adjacent land cover types. They are important elements in the landscape with almost 20% of the global forest area located within 100 m of the edge. Edges are structurally different from forest interiors, which results in unique edge influences on microclimate, functioning and biodiversity. These edge influences have been studied for multiple decades, yet there is only limited information available on how forest edge structure varies at the continental scale, and which factors drive this potential structural diversity. Here we quantified the structural variation along 45 edge-to-interior transects situated along latitudinal, elevational and management gradients across Europe. We combined state-of-the-art terrestrial laser scanning and conventional forest inventory techniques to investigate how the forest edge structure (e.g. plant area index, stem density, canopy height and foliage height diversity) varies and which factors affect this forest edge structural variability. Macroclimate, management, distance to the forest edge and tree community composition all influenced the forest edge structural variability and interestingly we detected interactive effects of our predictors as well. We found more abrupt edge-to-interior gradients (i.e. steeper slopes) in the plant area index in regularly thinned forests. In addition, latitude, mean annual temperature and humidity all affected edge-to-interior gradients in stem density. We also detected a simultaneous impact of both humidity and management, and humidity and distance to the forest edge, on the canopy height and foliage height diversity. These results contribute to our understanding of how environmental conditions and management shape the forest edge structure. Our findings stress the need for site-specific recommendations on forest edge management instead of generalized recommendations as the macroclimate substantially influences the forest edge structure. Only then, the forest edge microclimate, functioning and biodiversity can be conserved at a local scale.

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2020, Volume: 462, article number: 117929
Publisher: ELSEVIER