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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Forest edge effects on moss growth are amplified by drought

Koelemeijer, Irena Adia; Ehrlen, Johan; De Frenne, Pieter; Joensson, Mari; Berg, Peter; Hylander, Kristoffer


Forest fragmentation increases the amount of edges in the landscape. Differences in wind, radiation, and vegetation structure create edge-to-interior gradients in forest microclimate, and these gradients are likely to be more pronounced during droughts and heatwaves. Although the effects of climate extremes on edge influences have potentially strong and long-lasting impacts on forest understory biodiversity, they are not well understood and are not often considered in management and landscape planning. Here we used a novel method of retrospectively quantifying growth to assess biologically relevant edge influences likely caused by microclimate using Hylocomium splendens, a moss with annual segments. We examined how spatio-temporal variation in drought across 3 years and 46 sites in central Sweden, affected the depth and magnitude of edge influences. We also investigated whether edge effects during drought were influenced by differences in forest structure. Edge effects were almost twice as strong in the drought year compared to the non-drought years, but we did not find clear evidence that they penetrated deeper into the forest in the drought year. Edge influences were also greater in areas that had fewer days with rain during the drought year. Higher levels of forest canopy cover and tree height buffered the magnitude of edge influence in times of drought. Our results demonstrate that edge effects are amplified by drought, suggesting that fragmentation effects are aggravated when droughts become more frequent and severe. Our results suggest that dense edges and buffer zones with high canopy cover can be important ways to mitigate negative drought impacts in forest edges.


biodiversity; bryophytes; climate; edge influence; forestry; fragmentation; microclimate

Published in

Ecological Applications
2023, Volume: 33, number: 4, article number: e2851Publisher: WILEY

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    SLU Forest Damage Center

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