When you see a fence, you’re probably more interested in what’s inside or outside of it than in the barrier itself. But environmental scholars Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu believe fences deserve much more attention.

In a review of studies from ecosystems around the world, they found that fences may be the most common human-built structures on Earth and have far-reaching effects. Fences can divide ecosystems, alter animal behavior and even trigger impacts on soil and plant communities. McInturff, Wilkinson and Xu would like to see their research launch a new field of study: fence ecology.

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Jennifer Weeks

Environment + Energy Editor

Australia’s dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of kilometers. Marian Deschain/Wikimedia

Fences have big effects on land and wildlife around the world that are rarely measured

Alex McInturff, University of California Santa Barbara; Christine Wilkinson, University of California, Berkeley; Wenjing Xu, University of California, Berkeley

Millions of miles of fences crisscross the Earth's surface. They divide ecosystems and affect wild species in ways that often are harmful, but are virtually unstudied.

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