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Effects of bird predation on canopy arthropods in wandoo Eucalyptus wandoo woodland

Recher, H.F. and Majer, J.D. (2006) Effects of bird predation on canopy arthropods in wandoo Eucalyptus wandoo woodland. Austral Ecology, 31 (3). pp. 349-360.

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As top predators, birds may have significant effects on arthropod abundances and affect the trophic structure of arthropod communities through predation of lower order predators (e.g. spiders) and by competition for prey. We investigated the effects of bird predation on canopy arthropods in south-western Australia by using plastic bird mesh to exclude insectivorous birds from the foliage of wandoo Eucalyptus wandoo saplings. Exclosure resulted in an increase in the number of herbivorous and predatory arthropods. Total arthropods (with and without ants), spiders, adult Coleoptera, and larval Lepidoptera were significantly more abundant on meshed than unmeshed saplings. All size-classes of arthropods, taxa grouped, were more abundant on meshed than unmeshed saplings, but with no evidence of a disproportionate increase of the largest arthropods on meshed saplings. All size-classes of spiders increased in abundance on saplings from which birds were excluded. There were significant differences in the total abundance of arthropods (with and without ants), spiders (Araneae), sucking bugs (Homoptera), adult beetles (Coleoptera), larval moths (Lepidoptera), and wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) for both unmeshed and meshed saplings between sample periods. These seasonal patterns of abundance and differences between sample periods appeared to be determined by seasonal weather patterns, with the lowest numbers associated with drier and hotter conditions in summer and autumn than in winter and spring. The conclusion reached is that eucalypt forest birds have limited effects on temporal variation in canopy arthropod abundances, but depress abundances, and affect the size and trophic composition of the fauna. Given the cascading effects of birds as predators on arthropods, successful conservation management of eucalypt ecosystems, including plantations and revegetation, should be planned to maximize bird numbers and diversity.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
Copyright: © 2006 Ecological Society of Australia
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