Differential effects of landscape composition and patch size on avian habitat use of restored fields in agriculturally fragmented landscapes

Bryan M. Reiley, Thomas J Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Existing private-land conservation programs play an important role in restoring wildlife habitat in agriculturally fragmented landscapes. These conservation programs are generally implemented for a variety of environmental purposes in addition to providing wildlife habitat and as a result private-land programs are often implemented without identifying target species. Conservation benefits of private-land conservation programs could be improved if the needs of declining species were used to guide future enrollments and management of habitat created through these programs. To improve implementation and management of these programs, we examined what within-field, patch, and landscape features affected habitat selection by 6 conservation priority bird species. Specifically, we were interested in understanding how species responded to patch size, surrounding private-land conservation habitat, and the degree to which the amount of surrounding cropland moderated the response to the amount of conservation habitat. To do this, we conducted bird surveys at 172 private-land fields during 2012–2015. While most species were positively associated with patch size, only the Dickcissel (Spiza americana) was strongly positively associated with this variable. Dickcissel (+) and the Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) (-) had strong relationships with the amount of surrounding private-land conservation habitat, although we found no evidence that benefits were greater in landscapes with higher amounts of row-crop agriculture. Contrary to previous studies, our results suggest that for most of our focal species, targeting fields in areas with existing private-land conservation habitat and creating larger patches does not improve the benefit of these programs, although maintaining and placing them in grass-dominated landscapes will.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume274
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019

Fingerprint

private lands
private land
patch size
habitat use
habitat conservation
land management
habitats
conservation programs
wildlife habitats
habitat
Passeriformes
birds
effect
programme
habitat preferences
habitat selection
targeting
land conservation
grass
agriculture

Keywords

  • Birds
  • Grassland
  • Landscape context
  • Patch size
  • Private-land programs
  • Set-aside
  • Shrubland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

Cite this

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title = "Differential effects of landscape composition and patch size on avian habitat use of restored fields in agriculturally fragmented landscapes",
abstract = "Existing private-land conservation programs play an important role in restoring wildlife habitat in agriculturally fragmented landscapes. These conservation programs are generally implemented for a variety of environmental purposes in addition to providing wildlife habitat and as a result private-land programs are often implemented without identifying target species. Conservation benefits of private-land conservation programs could be improved if the needs of declining species were used to guide future enrollments and management of habitat created through these programs. To improve implementation and management of these programs, we examined what within-field, patch, and landscape features affected habitat selection by 6 conservation priority bird species. Specifically, we were interested in understanding how species responded to patch size, surrounding private-land conservation habitat, and the degree to which the amount of surrounding cropland moderated the response to the amount of conservation habitat. To do this, we conducted bird surveys at 172 private-land fields during 2012–2015. While most species were positively associated with patch size, only the Dickcissel (Spiza americana) was strongly positively associated with this variable. Dickcissel (+) and the Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) (-) had strong relationships with the amount of surrounding private-land conservation habitat, although we found no evidence that benefits were greater in landscapes with higher amounts of row-crop agriculture. Contrary to previous studies, our results suggest that for most of our focal species, targeting fields in areas with existing private-land conservation habitat and creating larger patches does not improve the benefit of these programs, although maintaining and placing them in grass-dominated landscapes will.",
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