Does forest fragmentation cause an increase in forest temperature?
Forest fragmentation is considered by many to be a primary cause of the current biodiversity crisis. The underlying mechanisms are poorly known, but a potentially important one is associated with altered thermal conditions within the remaining forest patches, especially at forest edges. Yet, large uncertainty remains about the effect of fragmentation on forest temperature, as it is unclear whether temperature decreases from forest edge to forest interior, and whether this local gradient scales up to an effect of fragmentation (landscape attribute) on temperature. We calculated the effect size (correlation coefficient) of distance from forest edge on air temperature, and tested for differences among forest types surrounded by different matrices using meta-analysis techniques. We found a negative edge-interior temperature gradient, but correlation coefficients were highly variable, and significant only for temperate and tropical forests surrounded by a highly contrasting open matrix. Nevertheless, it is unclear if these local-scale changes in temperature can be scaled up to an effect of fragmentation on temperature. Although it may be valid when considering “fragmentation” as forest loss only, the landscape-scale inference is not so clear when we consider the second aspect of fragmentation, where a given amount of forest is divided into a large number of small patches (fragmentation per se). Therefore, care is needed when assuming that fragmentation changes forest temperature, as thermal changes at forest edges depend on forest type and matrix composition, and it is still uncertain if this local gradient can be scaled up to the landscape.
KeywordsClimate change Edge effects Habitat disturbance Microclimate Thermal biology
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