Edge effects are a major cause of natural dynamics of fragmented forests; however, studies that evaluate edge effects during the lifetime of trees are relatively rare. Through a long-term perspective of tree growth, dendroecology can contribute to a better understanding of the influence of edge effects. In order to frame our interpretation, we raised the following hypotheses: (1) trees located close to a forest edge have lower growth rates compared to trees growing far from edges, and (2) climate sensitivity of trees naturally growing on the forest edge is different from the trees in the interior. This study was conducted in Southern Brazil, where 21 Araucaria angustifolia located 50 m from the edge and 19 individuals located 4000 m from the forest edge were sampled. Dendrochronological study followed the usual procedures and growth patterns were evaluated using basal area increment, specific threshold value of fast and slow growth, and principal components analysis. During the 54 years analyzed, results indicated that the edge effect reduced growth by 30% in diameter increment and wood production of A. angustifolia trees. Regarding the influence of climatic variability on tree growth, we observed that edge effects may exert strong pressure on growth responses to climate in A. angustifolia located on forest edges, making individuals in those environments potentially more sensitive to variations in temperature and rainfall, mainly at warmer times of year. We therefore emphasize the importance of considering edge trees as potential bioindicators of historical environmental changes and forest fragmentation. Future studies should be carried out in other forest types and with different tree species (e.g. pioneer vs. shade-tolerant, trees vs. shrubs) to test the reliability of our results and provide more robust conclusions about this phenomenon.
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Vol. 76 • No. 1