Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study

Date:
August 12, 2014
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Drier conditions at the edges of forest patches slow down the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study. It has long been known that so-called ‘edge effects’ influence temperature and moisture (the ‘microclimate’) in woodlands, but the influence on the carbon cycle is largely unknown.

Drier conditions at the edges of forest patches slow down the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study.

Forests around the world have become increasingly fragmented, and in the UK three quarters of woodland area lie within 100 metres of the forest edge. It has long been known that so-called 'edge effects' influence temperature and moisture (the 'microclimate') in woodlands, but the influence on the carbon cycle is largely unknown.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Earthwatch in the UK combined experiments with mathematical modelling to fill this knowledge gap. Wood blocks were placed in Wytham Woods near Oxford at various distances from the forest edge, and left to decay over two years. The measured decay rates were applied to a model of the surrounding landscape, to allow comparison between the current fragmented woodland cover and decay rates in continuous forest.

The research, published today in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that wood decay rates in the southern UK are reduced by around one quarter due to fragmentation. This effect is much larger than expected due to variation in temperatures and rainfall among years.

Dr Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter said: "We were surprised by the strength of the edge effect on wood decay, which we believe was driven by reduced moisture at the forest edge impairing the activity of saprotrophic fungi -- those that live and feed on dead organic matter."

Wood decay, and the recycling of other biological matter like leaf litter, is driven by fungi and other microbes that are sensitive to temperature and moisture. The difference between the absorption of carbon dioxide via photosynthesis by trees, and the release of carbon by microbes, determines the overall carbon balance of the forest.

Dr Martha Crockatt of Earthwatch said: "Saprotrophic fungi control the cycling of carbon and nutrients from wood in forests, and their responses to changes in microclimate driven by fragmentation, and also climate change, will influence whether forests are a carbon source or sink."

The southern UK has a temperate climate with moderate temperatures and rainfall. Similar studies in different parts of the world, from the warm tropics to the cooler boreal regions, are needed to understand how edge effects on decomposition vary globally.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Martha E. Crockatt, Daniel P. Bebber. Edge effects on moisture reduce wood decomposition rate in a temperate forest. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12676

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140812122409.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2014, August 12). Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140812122409.htm
University of Exeter. "Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140812122409.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins