Edited by Robert Halvorsen and David F. Layton
Forests, whether natural or planted, produce benefits and ecosystem services through production functions that depend on spatial factors such as contiguous area or configuration (e.g. Ranta et al. 1998). Forests also generate spatial externalities, often positive, to neighboring or spatially related land. Ecologists have long recognized and emphasized spatial aspects of how forests generate benefits as part of landscapes. Ecological models range from implicitly spatial, without defining the dimensions or configuration of those locations, in which more than one location matters; to explicitly spatial, in which shape, size, and configuration of location contribute to the forest ecosystem service production. For example, ecologists emphasize the importance of forest fragmentation, which occurs when a forest becomes patchy or contains many edges with other land uses. Connectivity/fragmentation is one critical indicator of the overall quality of a habitat for wildlife, insects, and plants (Nagendra et al. 2004). Habitat fragmentation is increasingly recognized as being a substantial contributor to the loss of regional and global biodiversity (Saunders et al. 1991); whilst in contrast, contact boundaries between forest and non-forest land uses enable the flow of ecosystem services to benefit nearby communities, suggesting a positive benefit (Coria et al. 2012; Smith et al. 2010). Ecologically, wildlife corridors allow species movements between patches of forest and may increase biodiversity even though the ratio of perimeter to area – a measure of fragmentation – remains high (Lindenmayer and Nix 1993; Leal et al. 2005; Gilbert-Norton et al. 2010; Hodgson et al. 2011).
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