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The influence of patch area and connectivity on avian communities in urban revegetation

Shanahan, D.F., Miller, C., Possingham, H.P. & Fuller, R.A. 2011. The influence of patch area and connectivity on avian communities in urban revegetation. Biological Conservation, 144, 722–729.

Landscape restoration through revegetation is being increasingly used in the conservation management of degraded landscapes. To effectively plan restoration programs information is required on how the landscape context of revegetation influences biodiversity gains. Here, we investigate the relative influence of patch area and connectivity on bird species richness and abundance within urban revegetation patches in Brisbane, Australia. We carried out bird surveys at 20 revegetation sites, and used hierarchical partitioning and model selection to test the relative importance of patch area (the area of revegetation including all directly connected remnant vegetation) and landscape connectivity (the vegetated area connected by less than 10 m, 20 m, 30 m, 40 m and 50 m cleared gaps). We controlled for a number of possible confounding variables within the hierarchical partitioning procedure. Both the hierarchical partitioning and model selection procedures indicated that connectivity had an important influence on bird species richness. Patch area in combination with connectivity were important influencing factors on overall bird abundance. We also carried out the hierarchical partitioning procedure for bird abundance data within a range of feeding guilds, yielding results specific to species groups. Overall our data suggest that greater connectivity enhances the habitat area that colonists can arrive from (resulting in greater species richness), whereas increased patch area allows for increased abundance by expanding the habitat available to species already present in a patch. A combined approach where connectivity and overall habitat area is enhanced across the landscape is likely to be necessary to meet long-term conservation objectives.

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