Regrowth provides complementary habitat for woodland birds of conservation concern in a regenerating agricultural landscape

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Abstract

Farmland abandonment often leads to an increase in vegetation cover in formerly cleared landscapes. In regions where forests and woodlands were cleared for agriculture, regrowth could be an effective way to increase species diversity by re-constructing a variegated landscape. Our study investigated the conservation outcomes for birds across a regenerating agricultural landscape. We compared bird composition across a range of land use and gradient of vegetation cover from cleared pasture, through regrowth sites of varying structure, to remnant forests. Bird community composition differed significantly among vegetation classes, with regrowth providing habitat for a complementary group of high conservation value species, rather than simply providing extra habitat for species that were otherwise well represented in the region. Variations in bird community composition were best explained by site variables that contributed to vegetation structure and internal patch variation. Regrowth had a higher diversity of cover than forest or pasture, and this created habitat for many woodland bird species. Regrowth vegetation may be slower to proceed, but it has the potential to complement active revegetation activities in adjacent production areas and enhance connectivity between remnant forest patches. While the benefits of regrowth are context specific, where regrowth improves landscape heterogeneity, there is great potential for conservation gains for birds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Volume124
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

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