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Spatial extent of bird species response to landscape changes: colonisation/extinction dynamics at the community-level in two contrasting habitats

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Animal community dynamics in changing landscapes are primarily driven by changes in vegetation structure and ultimately by how species respond to these changes and at which spatial scale. We consider two major components of local community dynamics, species colonisation and extinction. We hypothesise that (1) the optimal spatial extent needed to accurately predict them will differ between these two processes; (2) it will also likely differ from species to species as a result of life history traits differences related to differences in habitat selection and (3) that a species' primary habitat will determine the spatial extent at which it perceives change in vegetation structure. We used data collected over 25 yr in a changing Mediterranean landscape to study bird species local colonisation and extinction patterns in two groups of species typical from two habitats: open farmland and woodland. Vegetation changes were measured at spatial extents ranging from 0.2 to 79 ha. Local species colonisation and extinction estimates were computed using a method accounting for heterogeneity in detection probability among species. We built linear models between local species colonisation/extinction estimates and vegetation changes and examined variations in model quality with respect to the spatial extent at which vegetation changes had been measured. Models for open habitat species showed that colonisation processes operated at the landscape scale (79 ha), while extinction was more tightly linked to local habitat requirements (0.2 ha). Models for woodland species presented a low and constant model quality whatever the spatial extent considered. Our results suggest that the dynamics of the woodland species considered responded to a combination of vegetation changes at several scales and, in particular, to changes in the vertical structure of the vegetation. We highlight the need to explicitly consider spatial extent in studies of habitat selection and of habitat and population dynamics to improve our understanding of the biological consequences of land use changes and guide more effective conservation efforts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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