CIE Spotlight: The use of traits to interpret responses to large scale – edge effects: a study of epigaeic beetle assemblages across a Eucalyptus forest and pine plantation edge

Don D.

Don D.

Authors: Evans, Maldwyn John; Banks, Sam C.; Davies, Kendi F.; Mcclenahan, Jeff; Melbourne, Brett; Driscoll, Don A.

Source: LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY, 31 (8):1815-1831, OCT 2016

Brief summary of the paper:

Context: Edge effects due to habitat loss and fragmentation have pervasive impacts on many natural ecosystems worldwide.

Objective: We aimed to explore whether, in tandem with the resource-based model of edge effects, species feeding-guild and flight-capacity can help explain species responses to an edge.

Methods: We used a two-sided edge gradient that extended from 1000 m into native Eucalyptus forest to 316 m into an exotic pine plantation. We used generalised additive models to examine the continuous responses of beetle species, feeding-guild species richness and flight-capable group species richness to the edge gradient and environmental covariates.

Results: Phytophagous species richness was directly related to variation in vegetation along the edge gradient. There were more flight-capable species in Eucalyptus forest and more flightless species in exotic pine plantation. Many individual species exhibited multiple-peaked edge-profiles.

Conclusions: The resource based model for edge effects can be used in tandem with traits such as feeding-guild and flight-capacity to understand drivers of large scale edge responses. Some trait-groups can show generalisable responses that can be linked with drivers such as vegetation richness and habitat structure. Many trait-group responses, however, are less generalisable and not explained by easily measured habitat variables. Difficulties in linking traits with resources along the edge could be due to unmeasured variation and indirect effects. Some species’ responses reached the limits of the edge gradient demonstrating the need to examine edge effects at large scales, such as kilometres.