Ecotones: Marginal or central areas of transition?

25 April 2007

Areas of environmental transition, where ecological communities coincide, are sometimes termed ecotones. These regions often correspond with sharp environmmental gradients. Ecotones occur at multiple spatial scales, ranging from transittions between biomes to local small-scale transitions. In recent years ecotones have received increasing scientific attention after being neglected for years, as studies historically often focused on distinct communities. However, it is still debbatable whether these transitional regions are speciation and biodiversity hotspots that deserve special conservation interest or are actually areas that hold marginal populations that depend on other parts of the range for the maintenance of their biodiversity and therefore should not deserve primary investment. This paper discusses some of the recent advancements in our understanding of the role of ecotones in ecology, evolution, and conservation.