News Round-Up

Chronically understudied, fences hold grave ecological threats


Fences are one of humanity’s most frequent landscape alterations, with their combined length exceeding even that of roads by an order of magnitude. Despite their ubiquity, they have received far less research scrutiny than many human-built structures. Writing in BioScience , Alex McIntuff, who was at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, at the time of this research and is now with UC Santa Barbara, and a global team characterise the current state of fence research and generate a typology to guide future efforts.

The authors argue that fences are a particularly difficult to study feature: “Fences have eluded systematic study for so long for good reason. Fences are both difficult to detect, and, at an even more basic level, difficult to define.” For instance, definitions that might distinguish fences from walls are ever shifting. Compounding these challenges, McInturff and colleagues say, is the fact that “invasive species rapidly discover and exploit breaks in fences,” and therefore, “even where fences can be mapped, either remotely or via ground surveys, characterising their intactness or functionality requires a closer, and often infeasible, form of evaluation.” MORE