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Forest edges reduce slug (but not snail) activity-density across Western Europe

De Smedt, Pallieter, Baeten, Lander, Gallet-Moron, Emilie, Brunet, Jörg, Cousins, Sara A.O., Decocq, Guillaume, Deconchat, Marc, Diekman, Martin, Giffard, Brice, Kalda, Oliver, Liira, Jaan, Paal, Taavi, Wulf, Monika, Hermy, Martin, Verheyen, Kris
Pedobiologia 2019 v.75 pp. 34-37
Gastropoda, air, biogeochemical cycles, detritivores, drought tolerance, edge effects, environmental factors, environmental impact, fauna, forests, habitat fragmentation, habitats, herbivores, humidity, slugs, snails, soil, species abundance, temperature, Western European region
Fragmentation strongly shapes the distribution of organisms within forest patches through contrasting environmental conditions between the edge and interior habitat. Edge-to-interior distribution patterns are, however, poorly studied for litter- and soil-dwelling fauna, such as terrestrial gastropods, despite their high densities and significant impact on ecosystem processes, as both herbivores and detritivores. Therefore, we investigated edge-to-interior abundance patterns of terrestrial gastropods in 224 fragmented forest patches across Western Europe. Catching over 15,000 gastropods, we found that slug abundance is reduced in forest edges, while snail abundance shows no response on the edge effect. We hypothesize that these patterns could be explained by higher drought tolerance of snails, since forest edges have reduced air and soil humidity and elevated temperatures compared to forest interiors. Reduced slug abundance in forest edges potentially has ecological consequences for herbivory in and outside forest patches and nutrient cycling.