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Scale-sensitive landscape complementation determines habitat suitability for a territorial generalist

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Evaluating habitat suitability is often complex, as habitat effects may be scale-dependent, critical resources may be spatially segregated, and resource availability may also depend on intra- and inter-specific interactions. Using analyses that spanned multiple years and spatial scales, we investigated habitat requirements of a territorial generalist, the common raven Corvus corax, in a relatively pristine woodland, Białowieża Forest (E Poland). We compiled data from multiple raven surveys conducted between 1985 and 2001. Ravens were regularly distributed over the entire study area but declined in density over 50% within the 16 yr interval. In the same period game and forest management significantly reduced ungulate densities and likely diminished the habitat quality with regard to food supply, especially carrion. To better understand habitat requirements of ravens we studied breeding performance in relation to three different habitat types across multiple scales: open areas, coniferous-dominated forest, and deciduous-dominated forest. We found a prominent dissimilarity between raven nesting and foraging habitats highlighting the importance of resource complementation for ravens. On a fine scale, large old pines were exclusively selected as nesting trees and nesting areas were generally coniferous-dominated. However, at increasingly broader scales, coniferous habitats were negatively associated with raven reproductive success as those habitats likely provide a lower food supply. Only where the coniferous nesting areas at smaller scales were complemented with high percentages of deciduous forests and open areas at broader scales did the breeding performance increase. In addition to habitat composition, intra-specific interactions were important determinants of reproductive performance and very successful neighbors decreased reproductive performance of a focal pair. Most of previous studies have investigated resource complementation in terms of habitat edges or proximity of complementing resource patches. Our study demonstrates that the concept of landscape complementation also applies to gradients in landscape composition and emphasizes the importance of scales and intraspecific interactions in habitat analyses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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