The heterogeneity of wooded-agricultural landscape mosaics influences woodland bird community assemblages

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Neumann, Jessica L. ; Griffiths, Geoffrey H. ; Foster, Christopher W. ; Holloway, Graham J. (2016)

Context\ud Landscape heterogeneity (the composition and configuration of different landcover types) plays a key role in shaping woodland bird assemblages in wooded-agricultural mosaics. Understanding how species respond to landscape factors could contribute to preventing further decline of woodland bird populations.\ud Objective\ud To investigate how woodland birds with different species traits respond to landscape heterogeneity, and to identify whether specific landcover types are important for maintaining diverse populations in wooded-agricultural environments. \ud Methods\ud Birds were sampled from woodlands in 58 2 x 2 km tetrads across southern Britain. Landscape heterogeneity was quantified for each tetrad. Bird assemblage response was determined using redundancy analysis combined with variation partitioning and response trait analyses. \ud Results\ud For woodland bird assemblages, the independent explanatory importance of landscape composition and landscape configuration variables were closely interrelated. When considered simultaneously during variation partitioning, the community response was better represented by compositional variables. Different species responded to different landscape features and this could be explained by traits relating to woodland association, foraging strata and nest location. Ubiquitous, generalist species, many of which were hole-nesters or ground foragers, correlated positively with urban landcover while specialists of broadleaved woodland avoided landscapes containing urban areas. Species typical of coniferous woodland correlated with large conifer plantations.\ud Conclusions \ud At the 2 x 2 km scale, there was evidence that the availability of resources provided by proximate landcover types was highly important for shaping woodland bird assemblages. Further research to disentangle the effects of composition and configuration at different spatial scales is advocated.
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