Roads as Edges: Effects on Birds in Forested Landscapes

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Numerous studies have documented that forest edges affect habitat use and reproductive success of forest birds, but few studies have considered edges created by narrow breaks in the forest canopy. We compared predation rates on artificial nests placed within forest habitat along edge transects, 10 m from unpaved roads, and along interior transects, 300 m from forest-road boundaries. Local factors, such as nest concealment, and landscape factors, such as the degree of forestation in surrounding areas, were accounted for when testing for edge effects on nest predation. We conducted fixed-radius point counts to compare relative abundance of 34 bird species on edge and interior transects. Also, seven study plots were established adjacent to unpaved roads to map the distribution of bird territories within edge areas, 0–150 m from unpaved roads, and interior areas, 150–300 m from roads. Rates of nest predation on artificial nests did not differ between edge and interior transects, but the distribution of forest birds was influenced by unpaved roads. Four of 18 forestinterior species had lower relative abundance or territory density adjacent to roads, while four of six species categorized as edge nesters had higher relative abundance on edge transects. Our results suggest that narrow openings within forested landscapes may affect habitat use but not nest predation levels, emphasizing the need to frame definitions of “edge effects” within the context of multiple ecological processes. FOR. SCI. 48(2):381–390.

Keywords: Forest edges; Vermont; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; nest predation; territory distribution

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Wildlife and Fisheries Biology Program, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, 05405, present address USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forestry Sciences Lab, P.O. Box 8089 Missoula, MT, 59807, Phone: (406) 542-3246; Fax: (406) 2: Wildlife and Fisheries Biology Program, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, 05405, Phone: (802) 656-2684

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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