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This paradigm shift was also accompanied by an explosion of research that began to challenge the new a€?edges are bada€? paradigm with an avalanche of often contradictory results, and as the century turned, a new paradigm emerged that seemed to suggest that edge effects may not be a particularly useful concept because the responses of organisms to edges were idiosyncratic and unpredictable (Ehrlich 1997, Cadenasso et al. Despite the conflicting results that have emerged from the edge literature, ourA  10 years of research suggests that edge responses are more consistent than generally believed (Ries et al. Despite long-standing research showing the ecological and conservation consequences of being near habitat edges, as well as the ubiquity of edges (both natural and anthropogenic) in all landscapes, practical models and tools to study or consider edges have lagged.
The boundaries of small forest fragments are vulnerable to damage from the weather, grazing animals, and pests and weeds. On this page:What edge effects do, Size and shape, What’s happening next door, What you can do.
That grasses and weeds like foxglove or gorse growing at the forest edge disappear a short way in? A change in the types of birds from blackbirds, sparrows and finches at the edge of the bush, to tui, grey warblers, and fantails inside it?
You have noticed ‘edge effects’ that often occur at the boundary between two ecosystems (such as native forest and pasture). Edge effects often extend up to 50 m into native forest areas in the Waikato, sometimes further, especially if the bush is unfenced. The increased light, greater wind and temperature extremes and lower humidity (microclimate) at the boundaries of fragments favour some plant species over others. Most small forest fragments are surrounded by land that has been changed or developed in some way. Urban forest fragments that are furthest from large natural areas have been shown to have fewer native bird species. Pine and other plantations are of similar height and density to native forest and may host plant and animal pest species that can invade the fragment. On more sheltered sites, natural regeneration of native seedlings (helped by weed control) may be enough to create an effective buffer of shrubs and small trees at fragment edges. Sealing the edges of areas of bush by planting shrubs that can cope with high light levels, such as coprosmas, lemonwood, and manuka or kanuka – particularly on the side which gets the most wind. Reducing the amount of ‘edge’ by planting areas between fingers of bush (for example, over the ridge between gullies).
Learn how to manage and restore forest fragments using our planting guide to find out what to plant in fragment edges, and find out how to control pests and weeds in forest fragments.
Frederic Edward Clements depicted a transect across an ecotone boundary in his classic manual on Plant Physiology and Ecology (New York: Henry Holt, 1907), 211. Those familiar with the history of ecology will probably remember that the concept of ecological “edges” emerged in the early twentieth century to describe biological interactions happening on the boundaries between different plant formations and habitat types. It was Wisconsin’s own Aldo Leopold, though, who emphasized the homelier word “edge” as a synonym for Clements’s ecotone, and who invented the label “edge effects” to describe interactions in the vicinity of such boundaries.
Leopold’s argument was that many species sought out edges because of the variety of resources available near such boundaries.
The meeting and mixing of different organisms and natural features that occurs where Leopoldian edges meet is not limited to cornfields and woodlots, since geographical boundaries are fractal and operate on every conceivable scale. One obvious answer to why we chose the title Edge Effects for our CHE blog, then, is our desire to echo Leopold’s insight that edges are places where very different kinds of creatures (and people) come together, mingle, and change.
This kind of interdisciplinary knowledge-seeking and knowledge–making reflect a very long tradition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A flock of sheep grazing on the campus below the University of Wisconsin’s Agriculture Hall in the 1920s was evidence of the institution’s land grant traditions that made it so unusual. These disciplinary “edge effects” mean that the much-contested boundary between pure and applied knowledge have never meant as much at Wisconsin as it did elsewhere. University of Wisconsin President Charles Richard Van Hise (left) and his friend Governor Robert M. It used to be said of the Wisconsin Idea that “the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state”; we now extend that sentence to include not just the state, but the nation and the world. I shouldn’t close without acknowledging that ecology today takes a dimmer view of edge effects than Aldo Leopold did when he first introduced the concept. Perhaps there’s a valuable analogy in this even for the positive edge effects we seek when we talk across disciplinary and cultural divides. Recognition and respect in the service of shared knowing and understanding: these too can be edge effects, honoring differences and similarities alike. William Cronon is Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies.
Edge Effects is a digital magazine produced by graduate students at the Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE), a research center within the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Corridors established in woodlands or grasslands can create negative edge effects that extend into the woodland or grassland. Negative edge effects include increased risk of parasitism or disease, increased risk of predation, adverse microclimate conditions, and competition from invasive species.
In woodlands, create a dense, feathered edge with vegetation to reduce penetration of edge effects. If the landscape already consists of patches dominated by edge, a corridor will probably not contribute additional negative impacts. 2003, Ewers and Didham 2006).A  Many studies emerged that questioned some long-standing assumptions from the edge literature, such as uniformly generally predation rates (Chalfoun et al. 2004), and much of the confusion comes from an historical focus on the focal habitat fragment, and not the type of habitat adjacent to it (in other words the habitat that forms the edge). Conditions within the outer boundary of a fragment are quite different to the environment deeper inside it. If a patch of bush is one hectare (about 2 ? acres), the entire stand will be affected by edge effects.
This can make the combination of species present near the boundary different from that inside the fragment. Fragments may be next to urban areas (for example, housing, industry, or parkland), rural areas (for example, agriculture, horticulture, or planted forests), or other natural areas (for example wetland or scrub). Place your fence a couple of metres out from the bush edge so there is room for a dense shrub layer to develop. Often fenced forest fragments will do this themselves, forming a dense layer around their edges.
If you have a number of small fragments close together plant between them to reconnect them. Take care with harvest methods and timing to minimise threats to the fragment and its species. Some have to do with the history of ecology, some with the geography of Wisconsin, some with the institutional history of our university, some with the nature of conversations across academic disciplines, and all relate to core values of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE’s full name). Frederic Edward Clements, one of the most important founders of plant ecology in the United States, was responsible for introducing the word “ecotone” to describe such boundaries in his pioneering early study of Nebraska vegetation.1 For Clements, the ability to draw a boundary around distinct plant formations was an essential first step toward naming those formations and describing their characteristics, thus laying the foundation for all subsequent ecological analysis.
In his 1933 classic Game Management, Leopold followed his usual habit of combining the dispassionate insights of an ecologist with those of a practiced woodsman and hunter to declare that “game is a phenomenon of edges.
Geologists and ecologists have for more than a century characterized Wisconsin as a place where very different geographies—many of them operating on continental scales—meet and express their boundaries.
That seems to us to be an attractive metaphor for CHE itself, since we seek to be a welcoming home for scholars and scientists from any and all disciplines who share our passion for trying to understand how human beings interact with the rest of the natural world. Founded in 1848 and expanded under the 1862 Morrill Act to receive the state’s educational land grant, the UW is one of the very few research universities in the country where the traditional liberal arts institution and the new land grant agricultural and engineering schools of the mid-nineteenth century were combined into a single integrated whole. Perhaps that is why so many students and faculty members in so many departments and programs were drawn beyond their own disciplinary boundaries as they grappled with questions of natural processes and social policies and human well-being. La Follette, the Republican governor who became one of the most famous Progressive leaders of his generation, Van Hise encouraged UW faculty members to work with the governor’s aides and with state legislators to devise new policies that would benefit the people of Wisconsin and citizens of the United States more broadly. Still, the core value remains the same: the University of Wisconsin has never believed in building or defending an ivory tower, because its most interesting work has typically taken place on the boundaries where academia intersects with the wider world. With the emergence of island biogeography in the 1970s, and with growing concern among biologists about the threat that habitat fragmentation represents for vulnerable species all over the world, the edges that seemed so abundant and diverse to Leopold now often seem less benign.
When environmental humanists and scientists traverse disciplinary boundaries in search of enhanced understanding, our goal should not be to abandon disciplinary knowledge, but to broaden its contexts while testing its limits as responsibly and respectfully as we can.
The better we know and understand one another, the easier it is to foster the mutual recognition and respect that enable us to learn and live together. Although I’m familiar with many of these intersecting stories individually, the way that you have brought them together into such an elegant tale is breathtaking.
In particular, the best way of approaching edge effects is by reading, because I live in another part of the planet. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Visit the Center for Culture, History and Environment to receive updates about CHE news and events.
Examples include open corridors cleared for roads in woodlands and hedgerows established in grasslands. These distances can be used for estimating the zone of impact and for designing ways to reduce these impacts. We need to manage and restore our fragments to reduce these ‘edge effects’ so our fragments can survive and thrive.

Fragments with an uneven shape have more edge than round or square shapes of the same size.
For instance, fell pine trees away from the fragment edge, harvest outside of the main breeding period (spring) and don’t harvest all the woodlot at once. Let me see if I can weave these together to show how they relate to what we’re hoping to do in this blog. We sit, for instance, on the watershed between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley, so that some of our streams and rivers flow to the North Atlantic and others to the Gulf of Mexico. Disciplines represented among the dozens of us associated with CHE range from the natural and social sciences to the arts and humanities, from history and geography to ecology and literary studies, from landscape architecture to community and environmental sociology, from anthropology to botany and chemistry, from art history to history of science, from engineering to entomology, and so on. In most states, the “University of X” originated as a liberal arts school (think University of Michigan, University of Iowa, University of Oregon) whereas the “X State University” received the land grant to provide a home for engineering and agricultural science (think Michigan State, Iowa State, Oregon State). This was especially true for environmental topics, where the university quickly distinguished itself as a pioneer in many fields.
In that sense, the Wisconsin Idea is yet another edge effect that CHE tries to support whenever and wherever it can.
Edge effects can be dangerous, even lethal, if we fail to attend as carefully as we can not just to the benefits but also to the risks that occur when crossing boundaries.
Edge effects are valuable precisely because they occur where habitats and cultures and disciplines are marked by meaningful boundaries. Nevertheless, by reading Cronon’s article and other CHE participants I learn to recognize how valuable is the place I live. 2010) even showed that birds in forest patches can have profoundly different responses to different types of open edges (agriculture, mining, and residential). Fragments in gullies and alongside streams are usually unevenly shaped (usually long and narrow). Every grouse hunter knows this when he selects the edge of a woods, with its grape tangles, haw-bushes, and little grassy bays, as the likely place to look for birds.”2 For a creature like the white-tailed deer, nibbling plants near an edge was a way to take advantage of the food associated with exposed grasslands and marshes without straying too far from the protective cover of the forest. Bedrock in the northern part of our state is more ancient by nearly a billion years than bedrock in the south, and these different geologies affect everything from farming to tourism to frac sand mining.
Although all of us in CHE study past and present environmental change as it relates to human beings and human cultures, we approach this topic in so many different ways—with so many different questions and perspectives and methods that reflect our different disciplinary backgrounds—that we’ve all come to recognize that none of us can hope to understand such complicated phenomena by ourselves. In Wisconsin, the legislature insisted (over the strenuous objections of Madison’s liberal arts faculty) that these all be housed in one university.
Aldo Leopold is certainly among the best-known representatives of this tradition, but he is hardly alone.
Continental glaciers have covered Wisconsin multiple times, the most recent (which is named for the state) having departed less than 15,000 years ago, leaving behind fertile agricultural soils in some parts of the state and poorly drained wetlands elsewhere. It’s only when we cross the edges of our disciplines to enter what we half-jokingly call “CHE-Space” that we start sharing and hybridizing our knowledge. The unintended consequence was that ideas began moving freely among academic disciplines that often aren’t even on the same campus at many other institutions. Frederick Jackson Turner reinterpreted the whole sweep of American history in terms of the nation’s relationship with land.
Only one part of Wisconsin—the Driftless Area, in the southwest—has never been glaciated, and its topography is utterly different from everywhere else. The edge between glaciated and unglaciated regions of the state is among its most defining features. Birge helped invent the science of limnology using Madison’s famed lakes as objects of study. Prevailing air masses produce very different temperatures, precipitation patterns, and growing seasons in the northern and southern parts of the state, and these combine with bedrock, glacial artifacts, and soils to yield the boundaries between forests, savannahs, and prairies that were so much on Leopold’s mind when he wrote about edge effects.
Everything about the state’s history and geography has been shaped by these many boundaries and the edge effects that go with them. Curtis helped reinvent plant ecology by producing a state-wide survey of the Vegetation of Wisconsin that for the first time organized a state flora on ecological principles while also paying close attention to historical changes in human land use. Curtis, Leopold, and other scientists pooled their insights to create the first arboretum in the world organized by ecological habitat rather than Linnaean taxonomy. Franklin Hiram King studied Chinese cropping techniques to promote the study of sustainable agriculture.
James Willard Hurst transformed the field of American legal history in part by focusing on the role of law in shaping natural resource use. And the geologist Charles Richard Van Hise in 1910 wrote the first textbook of natural resource conservation ever published in the United States.

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