Edge-related changes in tree communities in the understory of mesic temperate forest fragments of northern Japan
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- Suzuki, S.N., Tomimatsu, H., Oishi, Y. et al. Ecol Res (2013) 28: 117. doi:10.1007/s11284-012-0995-8
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We have assessed the effects of habitat fragmentation on understory tree communities in mesic temperate forests of the Tokachi plain of northern Japan. Tree community composition was analyzed across 13 forest fragments of various sizes ranging from 0.30 to 8.51 ha. The community composition varied along the edge-to-interior gradient: there was a lower abundance of shade-tolerant shrubs in forest edges than in forest interiors, while saplings of dominant canopy trees and pioneer trees were more abundant near the edges. The edge influence extended approximately 56 m into the forest interiors. Even the interior area of small fragments were likely to be affected not only by the nearest edge but also by more distant edges. Consequently, most areas in fragments smaller than 2 ha were covered by these “edge-type” communities. These results indicate that it is of primary importance to conserve and restore forests with an area at least larger than several hectares to sustain forest-interior tree communities.