The edge explained

  Dear HCN:


Michael Cain's question about forest "edges' is a good one (HCN, 3/4/96). Too much edge can be a very bad thing. When edges are created by large-scale forest fragmentation - for instance, as a result of extensive clear-cuts - then the remaining forest stands can effectively become islands isolated from the rest of the forest, and under such circumstances one would expect a net loss of species diversity. An increase in forest edges can also be harmful when it is the result of residential subdivision at the urban/wildland interface. Under these circumstances, pets - especially cats - have a devastating impact on bird populations, and especially on species that nest on or close to the forest floor. This has been a pronounced problem in Eastern states where suburbia has spread at a gallop, but the West is by no means immune. The 20-acre ranchette is one of the greatest threats ever known to the integrity of Western lands.


When I write "We need to create more small forest "edges' in order to promote species diversity," I am advocating the kinds of small-scale forest disturbances necessary to produce a landscape that would mimic a relatively natural balance between openings and heavy cover. These openings would be by no means large enough to create fragmented forest islands. Nor would they entail permanent introduction to the ecosystem of exotic predators like dogs and cats.


While it is important to be zone-specific, if not site-specific, when making recommendations for habitat management, it is generally helpful to think in terms of habitat mosaics that feature a balance of forage and cover areas, and disturbed and undisturbed sites. We get this kind of balance when the ecosystem contains a mixture of early, middle and late seral (successional) communities. The important thing to remember is that these communities are not static. The kinds of small openings and edge effects normal in pine and transition-zone forests express this kind of dynamism: They appear as a result of windfall or fire (or where fire has been excluded, we can cause them to occur through light timber removal) and, as years pass, their configuration slowly changes as they are reabsorbed into the forest.





Bill deBuys


Santa Fe, New Mexico


High Country News Classifieds
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • VERDE RIVER PROJECTS TECHNICIAN
    The Verde River Projects Technician (VRPT) provides technical assistance to Verde River Program staff in implementation of the Verde River Streamflow Monitoring Protocol. This consist...
  • 8 FIELD PROJECT SPECIALISTS (POSITION FORMERLY TITLED TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISOR)
    Are you passionate about environmental conservation and connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with outdoor leadership...
  • SOUTHWEST REWILDING ADVOCATE
    WildEarth Guardians is seeking a full-time advocate in our Wild Places Program to advance a new paradigm of forest management and protection based on the...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...