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Fragmentation of Continental United States Forests

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We report a multiple-scale analysis of forest fragmentation based on 30-m (0.09 ha pixel−1) land-cover maps for the conterminous United States. Each 0.09-ha unit of forest was classified according to fragmentation indexes measured within the surrounding landscape, for five landscape sizes including 2.25, 7.29, 65.61, 590.49, and 5314.41 ha. Most forest is found in fragmented landscapes. With 65.61-ha landscapes, for example, only 9.9% of all forest was contained in a fully forested landscape, and only 46.9% was in a landscape that was more than 90% forested. Overall, 43.5% of forest was located within 90 m of forest edge and 61.8% of forest was located within 150 m of forest edge. Nevertheless, where forest existed, it was usually dominant—at least 72.9% of all forest was in landscapes that were at least 60% forested for all landscape sizes. Small (less than 7.29 ha) perforations in otherwise continuous forest cover accounted for about half of the fragmentation. These results suggest that forests are connected over large regions, but fragmentation is so pervasive that edge effects potentially influence ecological processes on most forested lands.

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Received 22 October 2001; accepted 30 April 2002.

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Riitters, K., Wickham, J., O'Neill, R. et al. Fragmentation of Continental United States Forests. Ecosystems 5, 0815–0822 (2002).

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