THE FOREST MARGIN ZONES

A landscape can be considered as the set of ecosystems of a given area. Varied ecosystems (landscape mosaics) are a most important aspect of biodiversity, which is particularly enriched by the presence of complex “forest margin zones” (ecotones).  Changes in the structure of the landscape are also closely connected to the presence of different types of forest margin zones.

A forest margin zone is a transitional ecological community (biocenosis or ecotone), influenced by surrounding ecosystems both in structure and function.  Margin areas are generally formed by the many different species living in the surrounding ecosystems but also by species that are distinctive of the ecotone itself.  Normally, this means that within the ecotone there is a larger number of species and a greater population density than in the adjacent areas (edge effect).  The edge effect also includes interaction between the living organisms of the ecotone and their physical environment: as a matter of fact, organisms making up an ecotone influence the soil conditions and microclimate of a given area.

In terms of vegetation, the intermediate strip that marks the transition between grassland ecosystems and forest ecosystems is represented mostly by shrubby vegetation without sharp boundaries or precise and stable proportions in the composition, with plants irregularly distributed.  This fosters the formation of a wide variety of habitats and microhabitats that make forest margins a particularly suitable place to live for a rich and diversified fauna.

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