PerspectiveEcology

Lasting signature of forest fragmentation

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Science  06 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6470, pp. 1196-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba1103

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Summary

A universal truth of ecology is that field experiments never unanimously support theory. This is not (always) because ecological theory is poorly developed or experiments poorly executed, but because ecology is a complex science dealing with variation at every biological level from individuals to biomes. When exceptions are the rule, explaining variation in responses among taxa and locations becomes the goal, particularly for theory that informs conservation. On page 1236 of this issue, Betts et al. (1) contribute to a particularly important debate: why the biological effects of forest fragmentation are so variable among species and places. They present evidence that historical deforestation (from glaciation, fires, hurricanes, or anthropogenic clearing) yielded communities that are more robust to modern forest fragmentation (from logging, burning, or development).

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