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A forest fragment. Photo: Carlos Peres

Human encroachment into forests that is parceling dense forestry into smaller and smaller areas called forest edges, is affecting 85% of forest vertebrates — sometimes positively (46%) and sometimes negatively (39%), an international team of researchers said in a study published in Nature Wednesday.

Why it matters: Study author Marion Pfeifer tells Axios it's "fair to say that we did not expect to find a relatively high proportion of species actually 'winning' when forest fragmentation occurs. However, we do emphasize that the species that lose out under forest fragmentation, i.e. the species we call forest core species...are more likely to be species that are already of conservation concern."

Study details: Funded by the EU's European Research Council, the team examined 1,673 species of arboreal vertebrates on five continents over a five-year period. They created and used two new measurements to quantify the abundance of each of the 1,673 species around the world and any chances determined by how close they were to the edge of forests.

The findings:

  • 85% of the species analyzed were impacted by forest fragmentation and in particular edge effects.
  • 39% of those need the dense forest core to survive and are being squeezed into smaller areas. "This leads to some of them becoming endangered, such as the Sunda pangolin," Pfeifer said.
  • 46% of those like conditions at the edges and are thriving, she said, while adding "these species are not necessarily ones that benefit the local ecosystem." Predators sometimes thrive on the edge since the conditions makes it easier to locate their prey.

Powerful approach: Deanna Olson, research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service who was not part of this study, tells Axios: "The importance of this lens on habitat degradation cannot be overemphasized."

"[This] is a powerful approach to examine patterns of biodiversity responses to forest edge effects. This mirrors approaches being used for examining effects of climate change projections or disease on species, but is novel for application to habitat fragmentation," Olson said.

Limitations and applications: However, Olson pointed out not all forests are simply an edge and a core. For example, she said in the Pacific Northwest forests of North America, changes in topography plus natural disturbances like landslides or fires make the forests more complex and potentially more sensitive to human-derived fragmentation. She says these areas should be studied further.

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Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 8 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.