TitleEdge effects reduce α-diversity but not β-diversity during community assembly in a human-modified tropical forest.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsKrishnadas M, Kumar AN, Comita LS
JournalEcol Appl
Date Published2019 12
KeywordsAged, Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Forests, Humans, India, Trees, Tropical Climate

Edge effects can alter the spatial organization of diversity in fragmented habitats. For tropical forests, however, there has been large variation in the strength and direction of such effects reported by different studies. For long-lived organisms like trees, one reason for inconsistent patterns might be due to most studies having examined patterns of diversity and compositional variation in older life stages that bear the legacy of a forest past. Younger life stages can reveal ongoing processes of assembly, but multi-stage examinations are rare. For seedling, sapling, and adult life stages of trees in a human-modified wet tropical forest in the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot (India), we examined how proximity to forest edges (edge influence) modified the spatial organization of diversity. Specifically, for each life stage we tested whether edge influence led to loss of α- and γ-diversity and decreased β-diversity in this landscape. We found lower α- and γ-diversity closer to forest edges, but only for seedlings. Seedling composition at 90-100 m from forest edges diverged from composition of sites within 60 m, suggesting that edge influence restricted the recruitment of some species to interior sites. In contrast, β-diversity was greater near edges than interior forest for all life stages and most prominently for seedlings. Furthermore, β-diversity at edges was primarily driven by species turnover, suggesting either marked species-environment associations or dispersal limitation. Low turnover at 90-100 m implies that β-diversity arose from stochastic fluctuations in occurrences and abundances of the same species set. Overall, we find that high β-diversity structured spatial patterns of diversity near edges, but recruitment bottlenecks are likely to reduce alpha diversity of forest fragments. Our results also corroborate the need to maintain sufficiently large areas of tropical forest free from edge effects to avoid the loss of interior forest species. To improve landscape-scale diversity of fragmented landscapes, restoration efforts should focus on recovery of species that are unable to regenerate near forest edges.

Alternate JournalEcol Appl
PubMed ID31495013