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Fragmentation within and between wetland reserves: the importance of spatial scales for nest predation in reed buntings

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Wetlands in many parts of the world are affected by fragmentation at multiple spatial scales. In Switzerland, most wetlands have been destroyed over the past two centuries and management of the remaining wetland reserves has intensified in the recent years leading to increased fragmentation of reed areas within reserves. Using four years of data on the reproductive performance of color-banded reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus populations, we explored fragmentation effects on nest predation rates at four spatial scales ranging from the nest to the landscape scale. In the egg stage, predation rate was negatively related to vegetation cover, vegetation height and nest height, but positively linked to water cover and depth next to the nest (nest scale). Probability of predation declined with increasing size of reed patches containing the nests and distances of nests to the water and land sided reed edge, as well as with decreasing edge to area ratio (edge scale). There was a weak positive association between degree of fragmentation of reed patches within sites and nest predation rates (site scale). Finally, nest predation probability increased with distance to the nearest wetland (landscape scale). Jointly analyzing variables from different spatial scales revealed that a model combining variables from the nest, edge and landscape scale best explained predation probability in the egg stage. In the nestling stage, the single most important factor influencing nest predation probability was the distance to the nearest wetland (landscape scale), with nest predation decreasing with distance between sites. Our results show that the probability of nest predation in reed buntings is affected by fragmentation within and between wetland reserves and that the effects differ between breeding stages. Future management of wetland reserves should aim at sparing reed patches large and dense enough to provide safe nest sites for birds.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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