Are Alaskan trees found in locally more favourable sites in marginal areas?

JJ Lennon*, WE Kunin, S Corne, S Carver, WWS Van Hees

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Aim Species generally become rarer and more patchily distributed as the margins of their ranges are approached. We predicted that in such marginal sites, tree species would tend to occur where some key environmental factors are at particularly favourable levels, compensating in part for the low overall suitability of marginal sites.

Location The article considers the spatial distributions of trees in Southeast Alaska (the Alaskan 'panhandle').

Methods We quantified range marginality using spatial distributions of eight tree species across more than one thousand surveyed sites in Southeast Alaska. For each species we derived a site core/margin index using a three-dimensional trend surface generated from logistic regression on site coordinates. For each species, the relationships between the environmental factors slope, aspect and site marginality were then compared for occupied and unoccupied sets of sites.

Results We found that site slope is important for more Alaskan tree species than aspect. Three out of eight had a significant core/margin by occupied/unoccupied interaction, tending to be present in significantly shallower-sloped (more favourable) sites in the marginal areas than the simple core/margin trend predicted. For site aspect, one species had a significant interaction, selecting potentially more favourable northerly aspects in marginal areas. A finer-scale analysis based on the same data came to the same overall conclusions.

Conclusions There is evidence that several tree species in Alaska tend to occur in especially favourable sites in marginal areas. In these marginal areas, these species amplify habitat preferences shown in core areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Ecology & Biogeography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2002


  • core
  • forest
  • habitat selection
  • macroecology
  • range margin
  • species distributions
  • tree distributions
  • USA


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