Habitat Creation and Woodland Bird Populations

By Fatin Chowdhury ‘19

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Figure 1. The researchers studied bird communities in woodland settings containing constructed habitats.

Many are aware of the need for conservation in ecologically vulnerable locations, but scientists continue to seek to clarify the details surrounding conservation logistics. A study led by Dr. Robin Whytock at the University of Sterling examined differences in local and landscape habitat creation for bird communities within the woodland forests in central England and Scotland. Whytock’s team considered biodiversity and other markers critical to conservation in 101 woodland regions. In particular, one of their hypotheses predicted that older woodlands would host a greater number of bird species, due to greater structural diversity.

Generalized linear models (GLMs) and piecewise structural equation models (SEMs) were used to analyze factors such as bird population presence, local patch structure, and landscape structure. R statistics were used for data analysis. Surveys were conducted using a modified common bird census method by which areas were repeatedly observed for bird activity. 7,791 records of adult birds were collected. Different traits of areas such as woodland patches were analyzed on a local scale, with age, geometry, and area being determined. Landscape traits were explored through more general metrics such as woodland cover percentage calculations.

The researchers found that biodiversity characteristics were often dependent upon differences from local and landscape dynamics. A positive link between total bird population and total diversity of bird species was statistically pinpointed by the researchers. Older tree patches contained more birds and bird species. Diversity also affected the total number of birds observed in local areas. In landscape regions, uninterrupted broadleaf woodland areas had a positive impact on species diversity.

As typified by the methodologies used in this study, quantitative data analysis is being applied towards areas such as conservation oriented ecology. It is possible that by scrutinizing species specific consequences of habitat creation on varying scales, conservation may be carried out in a more nuanced manner.

References:

  1. R. Whytock et al., Bird-community responses to habitat creation in a long-term, large-scale natural experiment. Conservation Biology 32, 345-354 (2018). doi:10.1111/cobi.12983.
  2. Image retrieved from: https://unsplash.com/photos/UfPjkP6xbUM
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