Effects of landscape composition and connectivity on the distribution of an endangered parrot in agricultural landscapes

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Abstract

The extent and connectivity of individual habitat types strongly affects the distribution and abundance of organisms. However, little is known of how the level of connectivity and the interactions between different habitat types influences the distribution of species. Here, we used the geographically restricted and endangered regent parrot Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides as a case study to examine the importance of composition and connectivity between different elements in 39 complex landscape mosaics (each 10 km radius). We compiled a database of 674 regent parrot nesting records, regional vegetation maps and measures of multipath connectivity between core vegetation types under different scenarios of resistance to movement provided by landscape elements. The occurrence of regent parrot nests was strongly affected by landscape composition, being positively related to the extent Eucalyptus camaldulensis riverine forest, but negatively related to the extent of semi-arid woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus largiflorens. Connectivity between E. camaldulensis forest (principal nesting habitat) and mallee (preferred feeding habitat) was a strong predictor of nest locations. Our study shows that the suitability of fragmented agricultural landscapes for supporting species can be greatly affected by connectivity and interactions between preferred and non-preferred habitats. For species that require complementary habitats such as the regent parrot, conservation management activities may be ineffective if they simply focus on a single core habitat type or the impacts of human land uses without regard to the interrelationships among landscape elements. While increasing the amount of primary preferred habitat should remain a cornerstone goal, increasing the extent and improving connectivity with alternative landscape elements also should be priority management objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1249-1259
Number of pages11
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume29
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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