Edge influence on plant litter biomass in forest and savanna in the Brazilian cerrado.
Edge influence, characterized by differences in ecosystem characteristics between the edge and the interior of remnants in fragmented landscapes, affects a variety of organisms and ecosystem processes. An important feature that may be affected by edges is the amount of plant litter, which provides important habitat for a large variety of organisms and influences ecological processes such as fire dynamics. We studied edge influence on plant litter and fine woody debris in the cerrado of São Paulo state, south-eastern Brazil. We collected, sorted, dried and weighed plant litter along 180 m-long transects perpendicular to three savanna and eleven forest edges adjacent to different anthropogenic land uses, with four to five transect per edge. There tended to be less biomass of the finer portions of fine woody debris at both savanna and forest edges. Graminoid litter at savanna edges was greater than in the corresponding interior areas, whereas other litter portions were either unaffected by edges or did not show consistent patterns in either savanna or forest. Edge influence was usually restricted to the first 20 m from the edge, was not influenced by edge characteristics and exhibited no clear differences between savanna and forest areas. Several mechanisms may have led to the variable patterns observed including variation in the plant community, plant architecture, and invasive species. The edge-related variation in plant litter may putatively lead to, for example, increased fire frequency and intensity at the savanna edges and altered trophic dynamics at forest edges; the mechanisms and consequences of this edge influence should be addressed in future studies.