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Effects of habitat transitions on rainforest bird communities across an anthropogenic landscape mosaic


Huang, Guohualing; Catterall, Carla (2020), Effects of habitat transitions on rainforest bird communities across an anthropogenic landscape mosaic, Dryad, Dataset,


We compared bird community responses to the habitat transitions of: rainforest-to-pasture conversion, consequent habitat fragmentation, and post-agricultural regeneration, across a landscape mosaic of about 600 km2 in the eastern Australian subtropics. Birds were surveyed in seven habitats: continuous mature rainforest; two size-classes of mature rainforest fragment (4-21 ha, 1-3 ha); regrowth forest patches dominated by a non-native tree (2-20 ha, 30-50 years old); two types of isolated mature trees in pasture; and treeless pasture; with six sites per habitat. We compared the avifauna among habitats, and among sites, at the levels of species, functional guilds, and community-wide. Community-wide species richness and abundance of birds in pasture sites were about one-fifth and one-third, respectively, of their values in mature rainforest (irrespective of patch size). Many measured attributes changed progressively across a gradient of increased habitat simplification. Rainforest specialists became less common and less diverse with decreased habitat patch size and vegetation maturity. However, even rainforest fragments of 1-3 ha supported about half of these species. Forest generalist species were largely insensitive to patch size and successional stage. Few species reached their greatest abundance in either small rainforest fragments or regrowth. All pastures were dominated by bird species whose typical native habitats were grassland, wetland and open eucalypt forest, while pasture trees modestly enhanced local bird communities. Overall, even small scattered patches of mature and regrowth forest contributed substantial bird diversity to local landscapes. Therefore, maximising the aggregate rainforest area is a useful regional conservation strategy.