Edge Effects on Wildlife

Authored by: Peter W.C. Paton

Encyclopedia of Natural Resources

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9781439852583
eBook ISBN: 9781351043847
Adobe ISBN:


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Aldo Leopold, founder of the science of wildlife management, coined the term “edge effects” to refer to the biological phenomenon that the densities of many game species are higher near the juxtaposition of adjacent habitats. For decades, biologists created more edge habitat to enhance the populations of game species. However, edge habitat is not necessarily beneficial to all species, particularly for forest-interior specialists that are sensitive to habitat fragmentation. Most research investigating the effects of habitat fragmentation on avian nesting success has investigated this question by looking just at edges and adjacent habitats. However, studies investigating larger spatial scales have found that landscape context helps to determine whether edge effects will be documented. Edge effects in avian nesting success are more likely to occur in highly fragmented landscapes, whereas edge effects are less likely to be documented in unfragmented landscapes. The underlying mechanisms that determine edge effects are still unclear.

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