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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Piecing Together the Fragments: Elucidating Edge Effects on Forest Carbon Dynamics
  • Primary Author: Ian Smith (Boston University)
  • Additional Authors: Lucy Hutyra (Boston University); Andrew Reinmann (Boston University); Jonathan Thompson (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    Forest fragmentation is a pervasive phenomenon with profound impacts on the growing conditions of the world’s forests. Globally, nearly 20% of the world’s remaining forested area is estimated to be within 100 meters of an edge (Haddad et al. 2015). Our understanding of forest carbon dynamics generally comes from studying unfragmented forest systems, this represents a mismatch between the landscapes that we study and those we aim to characterize. While forest fragmentation research has traditionally focused on biodiversity, fragmentation can also impact forest carbon dynamics through edge effects on biotic and abiotic controls on the forest carbon cycle. Forest fragmentation produces gradients in microclimate, biogeochemistry, productivity and structure from the forest edge to interior. Current forest carbon accounting methods and ecosystems models largely do not consider edge effects, highlighting an important gap in our understanding of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Here, we synthesize the literature related to edge effects and the carbon cycle and hypothesize how fragmentation might affect the growing conditions of the world’s remaining forests based on risks and opportunities for growth at the forest edge.

  • Research Category: Forest-Atmosphere Exchange