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Multi-scale factors affecting bird use of isolated remnant oak trees in agro-ecosystems

DeMars, C.A., Rosenberg, D.K. and Fontaine, J.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-6515-7864 (2010) Multi-scale factors affecting bird use of isolated remnant oak trees in agro-ecosystems. Biological Conservation, 143 (6). pp. 1485-1492.

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With recent emphasis on sustainable agriculture, conservation of native biota within agricultural systems has become a priority. Remnant trees have been hypothesized to increase biological diversity in agro-ecosystems. We investigated how remnant Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) trees contribute to conserving bird diversity in the agro-ecosystem of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA. We compared bird use of isolated oak trees in three landscape contexts - croplands, pastures, and oak savanna reserves - and ranked the relative importance of four factors thought to influence bird use of individual trees: (i) tree architecture; (ii) tree isolation; (iii) tree cover in the surrounding landscape; and (iv) landscape context, defined as the surrounding land use. We evaluated species-specific responses and four community-level responses: (i) total species richness; (ii) richness of oak savanna-associates; (iii) tree forager richness; and (iv) aerial and ground forager richness. We documented 47 species using remnant oaks, including 16 species typically occurring in oak savanna. Surprisingly, landscape context was unimportant in predicting frequency of use of individual trees. Tree architecture, in particular tree size, and tree cover in the surrounding landscape were the best predictors of bird use of remnant trees. Our findings demonstrate that individual remnant trees contribute to landscape-level conservation of bird diversity, acting as keystone habitat structures by providing critical resources for species that could not persist in otherwise treeless agricultural fields. Because remnant trees are rarely retained in contemporary agricultural landscapes in the United States, retention of existing trees and recruitment of replacement trees will contribute to regional conservation goals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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