Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chairperson

Jessica L. Schedlbauer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gregory Turner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Harry M. Tiebout, Ph.D.


The development of edge effects has been shown to influence soil carbon cycling and storage through the alteration of microclimate. Yet, few studies have quantified how these components of the carbon cycle change at temperate deciduous forest edges, despite the growing prevalence of fragmented forests.

The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of edge effects on soil carbon cycling and storage in Eastern deciduous forests during the 2018 growing season. At each of three study sites, three 100 m transects were established with plots at 5, 15, 30, 60 and 100 m from the forest edge. Monthly measurements of soil respiration, soil temperature, and gravimetric soil moisture were made in each plot. Litter biomass and soil carbon content were measured once in each plot. Decomposition rates were assessed in each plot via a litterbag study.

Soil respiration rate, soil temperature, and gravimetric soil moisture significantly differed along edge to interior gradients (p < 0.001) and throughout the growing season (p < 0.0001). Litter biomass, soil carbon content, and decomposition rate did not differ significantly along edge to interior gradients (p > 0.05). Soil temperature at 5 cm depth and soil carbon content at 10-20 cm depth were significant drivers of soil respiration (p < 0.0001).

It is probable that edge-induced changes in soil temperature are leading to elevated rates of soil respiration near the edge. These changes may result in a greater release of CO2 from fragmented temperate deciduous forests, creating a positive feedback to climate change.