Habitat edges and avian ecology: Geographic patterns and insights for western landscapes

Thomas D. Sisk, James Battin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Habitat edges are an important feature in most terrestrial landscapes, due to increasing rates of habitat loss and fragmentation. A host of hypothesized influences of habitat edges on the distribution, abundance, and productivity of landbirds has been suggested over the past 60 years. Nevertheless, "edge effects" remains an ill-defined concept that encompasses a plethora of factors thought to influence avian ecology in heterogeneous landscapes. The vast majority of research on edge effects has been conducted in the broad-leafed forests of northeastern and midwestern North America. In general, many western habitats are more heterogeneous and naturally fragmented than their eastern counterparts, and habitat edges are a ubiquitous component of most western landscapes. These differences in landscape structure suggest that edge effects, and the mechanisms underlying them, may differ markedly in the West. We examined over 200 papers from the peer-reviewed literature on edge effects, focusing our efforts on empirical results and trends in research approaches. The relative dearth of western studies makes geographic comparisons difficult, but it is clear that mechanistic understanding of edge effects has lagged behind pattern identification. Bird responses to edge effects tend to vary markedly among species and among different edge types, while no clear pattern emerges regarding species diversity. In the context of the review, we discuss research and modeling approaches that could move our understanding of edge effects toward a more mechanistic and predictive framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-48
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Avian Biology
Issue number25
StatePublished - 2002


  • Core area model
  • Density
  • Edge effects
  • Effective area model
  • Habitat edge
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Heterogeneity
  • Species diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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