Data from: The response of bird feeding guilds to forest fragmentation reveals conservation strategies for a critically endangered African eco-region
Olivier, Pieter I.; van Aarde, Rudi J. (2016), Data from: The response of bird feeding guilds to forest fragmentation reveals conservation strategies for a critically endangered African eco-region, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.c2df1
South African coastal forests form part of two critically endangered eco-regions and harbor an extinction debt. Remaining fragments are small, isolated, and embedded within a range of human land-use types. In this study, we ask: how should we invest conservation resources if we want to restore this landscape and prevent predicted extinctions? To answer this question, we use path analyses to determine the direct and indirect effects of forest area, forest connectivity, and matrix land-use types on species richness within five bird feeding guilds. We found that forest connectivity had a significant direct effect on insectivores—fragments that were more connected had more species of insectivores than those that were isolated. Moreover, forest area had a significant indirect effect on insectivores that was mediated through tree species richness. Larger fragments had more species of trees, which led to more species of insectivores. Fragment area, connectivity, matrix land-use type, and tree species richness had no significant effects on the species richness of frugivores, nectarivores, granivores, or generalist feeders. To conserve insectivores in coastal forests, conservation efforts should focus on maximizing fragment connectivity across the landscape, but also protect the tree community within fragments from degradation. This can be achieved by including matrix habitats that adjoin forest fragments within forest conservation and restoration plans. Natural matrix habitats can increase connectivity, provide supplementary resources, buffer fragments from degradation, and could play an important role in safeguarding diversity and preventing extinctions in this threatened human-modified landscape.