We have a new paper in Landscape Ecology led by Terhi Riutta, exploring the fragmented nature of the English woodland landscape. Using data from a focal area in the Upper Thames Basin (including Oxford), it shows that 37% of woodlands are within 30 m distance from a forest edge, and 74% of woodlands are within 100 m from an edge. This matters because edges have very different microclimates and biotic properties - two examples in the paper show that tree water use is much higher in the dry microclimate near forest edges, and populations of forest specialist moths are much lower. If we focus research in cores of relatively large blocks of woodland (such as Wytham near Oxford), we may misunderstand and misrepresent the nature of the ecology and functioning of English woodlands. The same applies to other fragmented woodland landscapes in temperature regions across the world, and increasingly in fragmented tropical forest regions such as in West Africa or Brazil's Atlantic forest.
Riutta T., Slade E.M., Morecroft M.D., Bebber D.P., Malhi Y. (2014) Living on the edge: quantifying the structure of a fragmented forest landscape in England, Landscape Ecology, DOI: 10.1007/s10980-014-0025-z
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University