Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Nicholas Vaughn; Greg Asner; Christian Giardina
    Date: 2014
    Source: Ecological Applications. 24(7): 1638-1650
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (592.35 KB)


    Fragmentation poses one of the greatest threats to tropical forests with short-term changes to the structure of forest canopies affecting microclimate, tree mortality, and growth. Yet the long-term effects of fragmentation are poorly understood because (1) most effects require many decades to materialize, but long-term studies are very rare, (2) the effects of edges on forest canopy structure as a function of fragment size are unknown, and (3) edge effects are often confounded by fragment shape. We quantified the long-term (centennial) effects of fragmentation on forest canopy structure using airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) of 1060 Hawaiian rain forest fragments ranging in size from 0.02 to 1000 ha, created more than 130 years ago by flowing lava. Along with distance from edge, we developed a metric, minimum span, to gain additional insight into edge effects on three measures of canopy structure: canopy height, height variation, and gap fraction. Fragment size was a strong determinant of the three structural variables. Larger fragments had greater average height, larger variation in height, and smaller gap fraction. Minimum span had a large effect on the depth and magnitude of edge effects for the three structural variables. Locations associated with high span values (those surrounded by more forest habitat) showed little effect of distance to fragment edge. In contrast, locations with low span values (those more exposed to edges) were severely limited in canopy height, showed lower height variation, and were associated with greater gap fraction values. The minimum span attribute allows for a more accurate characterization of edge as well as fragment-level effects, and when combined with high resolution imagery, can improve planning of protected areas for long-term ecological sustainability and biodiversity protection.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Vaughn, N.; Asner, G.; Giardina, C. 2014. Centennial impacts of fragmentation on the canopy structure of tropical montane forest. Ecological Applications. 24(7): 1638-1650.


    canopy height, Carnegie Airborne Observatory, edge effects, gap fraction, Hawaii, kipuka, LiDAR, Metrosideros polymorpha, minimum span.

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page