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The effect of woodland area on avian community composition in a fragmented southern UK landscape and associated management recommendations

Gardner, E., Hesselberg, T., Grabowska-Zhang, A. and Hughes, J. (2019) The effect of woodland area on avian community composition in a fragmented southern UK landscape and associated management recommendations. Bird Study, 66 (3). pp. 293-305. ISSN 1944-6705

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2019.1656707

Abstract/Summary

Capsule. Smaller woodlands not only support fewer species, but also show different avian community composition, due to loss of woodland interior and an increase in edge habitat. Aims. To use observed community composition changes, rather than traditional total species richness-area relations, to make area-specific management recommendations for optimising woodland habitat for avian communities in fragmented landscapes. Methods. We selected a sample of 17 woodlands with area 0.2<A<120ha in Oxfordshire, UK. Three dawn area searches were conducted in each woodland between 1st April and 28th May 2016, recording encounter rates for each species. The impact of internal habitat variation on woodland comparability was assessed using habitat surveys. Results. Woodlands with A<3.6ha showed a significant positive relationship between total avian species richness and woodland area. Woodlands with A>3.6ha were all consistent with a mean total richness of 25.4±0.6 species, however the number of woodland specialists continued to increase with woodland area. Woodland generalists dominated the total encounter rate across the area range, however the fractional contribution of woodland specialists showed a significant positive correlation with woodland area, while the fractional contribution of non-woodland species significantly decreased. Non-woodland species numbers peaked in mid-sized woodlands with enhanced habitat heterogeneity. Conclusions. Community composition analysis enables more targeted recommendations than total species richness analysis, specifically: large woodlands (>25ha) in southern UK should focus conservation efforts on providing the specific internal habitats required by woodland specialists; medium-sized woodlands (approximately 4<A<25ha) should focus on promoting internal habitat variety, which can benefit both woodland species and non-woodland species of conservation concern in the surrounding landscape; small woodlands (<4ha) should focus on providing nesting opportunities for non-woodland species and on improving connectivity to maximise habitat for woodland generalists and facilitate movement of woodland specialists.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Biodiversity, Crops and Agroecosystems Division > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:85581
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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