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Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Bird Species in a Relict Temperate Forest in Semiarid Chile

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We analyzed the structure and composition of a bird assemblage in a fragmented relict temperate forest located in northcentral Chile ( Fray Jorge National Park). In terms of species composition, the bird assemblage we found in Fray Jorge was more similar to southern temperate forest sites, located more than 1200 km south of Fray Jorge, than to localities found in nearby scrub habitats. The relict character and long-term isolation of the Fray Jorge forest provides a natural experiment with which to establish the potential long-term effects of fragmentation and isolation on southern Chilean temperate forests. Between May 1996 and March 1997, we conducted seasonal surveys of birds in six forest fragments, ranging in size from 0.5 to 22.5 ha, at Fray Jorge. The number of bird species at each forest fragment was positively correlated with fragment area during all seasons. The relict forest system had a steeper species-area slope than that reported for similar temperate-forest bird assemblages in forest fragments within Chiloé Island and for islands across the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile. In this regard, this bird fauna resembled a depauperate oceanic archipelago. This difference in area effects is likely a consequence of the minimization of rescue effects because of the absence of large source forest areas nearby and the long-term isolation of the system. In addition, the distribution of species among forest fragments in Fray Jorge was not random, showing a nested subset pattern. Thus, some species occur across all fragments, regardless of their area, and therefore are less affected by habitat fragmentation and less prone to local extinction. These results suggest that, for south-temperate forest birds, large fragments (or reserves) should afford better protection against extinction than small forest patches.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile,Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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