How habitat edges change species interactions

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472 Scopus citations


Traditionally, ecologists interested in habitat edges have focused on edge-related gradients in patterns of species richness or abiotic variables. Here, however, we take a different perspective, attempting to synthesize recent empirical results concerning the effects of habitat edges on population dynamics with contemporary theoretical developments to outline the ways in which species interactions, and the dynamics of the communities in which they are embedded, can be changed by habitat edges. We find a striking convergence between empirical notions of a patch's core area and analytical results from partial differential equation models. A review of both empirical and theoretical studies suggests four general classes of mechanisms through which habitat edges can have similar impacts on dissimilar types of species interactions. Specifically, we focus on edges' roles as dispersal barriers or filters, edges' influences on mortality, edges' involvement in spatial subsidies (in which dispersers' intrapatch impacts are maintained by their activities in other habitats), and edges' roles as generators of novel interactions. For each class of edge-mediated effects, we provide examples of how one can use spatial modeling to address the relevant questions on these topics, which together form a key link between community dynamics and land scape structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Community dynamics
  • Edge effects
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Landscape structure
  • Partial differential equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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