Purdue University Graduate School
2021.7.29 McCallister.pdf (2.14 MB)

Life on the Edge: Structural Analysis of Forest Edges to Aid Urban Management

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posted on 2021-07-30, 02:49 authored by Benjamin Zachary McCallisterBenjamin Zachary McCallister
The accelerating expansion of agricultural and urban areas fragments and degrades forests
and their capacity to provide essential ecosystem services while increasing physiological stress
and mortality rates of trees growing near forest edges. Previous studies have documented that
edges are hotter and drier than forest interiors and trees nearer the edge grow slower. However,
the physical structure of a forest’s canopy may serve to mitigate to these effects. This study
quantifies forest fragmentation across the Central Hardwoods Region (CHR; containing Missouri,
Illinois, and Indiana) and characterizes structural differences between the canopies of forest edges
and forest interiors. Importantly, we distinguish between edges that neighbor developed land and
agricultural lands since these landcover types may impose distinct effects on forest structure. We
characterized forest canopy structure in a subset of the CHR region using the 2016-2020 Indiana
3DEP Lidar Program data. Our findings indicate edge forest (forests within 30m of an edge) makes
up 29.8% of the total forest in our study extent, with urban and agricultural edges accounting for
17.8% and 72.8% of the edge edges in the region, respectively. Analysis of 15 separate structural
metrics derived from aerial laser scanning (ALS) showed no significant structural differences
between developed and agricultural edge canopies but did find differences between structure of
canopies in forest cores and those in forest edges of any kind. As developed and agricultural lands
increase so too will forest fragmentation and the creation of new forest edges. If there are no
significant differences between forest edge types, then we could begin to treat edges without
distinction. This could lead to simplified management practices for foresters and urban foresters
alike to protect and preserve forest fragments.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Brady Hardiman

Additional Committee Member 2

Suresh Rao

Additional Committee Member 3

Robert Fahey