Synergistic effects of habitat configuration and land-use intensity shape the structure of bird assemblages in human-modified landscapes across three major neotropical biomes

Olinda Maira Alves Nogueira, Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Carlos A. Peres, Manoel Dos Santos-Filho

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Abstract

Maximizing biodiversity persistence in heterogeneous human-modified landscapes is hindered by the complex interactions between habitat quality and configuration of native and non-native habitats. Here we examined these complex interactions considering avian diversity across 26 sampling sites, each of which comprised of three sampling points located across a gradient of disturbance: core native habitat fragment, fragment edge, and non-native adjacent matrix. The 78 sampling points were further nested within three neotropical biomes—Amazonia, Cerrado and Pantanal—in central-western Brazil. Matrix type consisted of cattle pastures in the Amazon and teak plantations in the Pantanal and Cerrado. We considered the interactive effects of (1) disturbance-context: fragment core, edge and adjacent matrix, (2) matrix type: tree plantation or cattle pastures, both subject to varying land-use intensity, and (3) native habitat configuration (fragment size, shape and isolation) on bird species richness, abundance and composition. Based on point-count surveys, we recorded 210 bird species. Bird species richness and abundance declined across the disturbance gradient, while genus composition only differed within the adjacent matrix, particularly cattle-pastures. The effect of native habitat area was positive but only detected at fragment edges. Overall bird diversity increased at sites characterized by higher availability of either relict trees within pasture landscapes or old-growth trees within teak plantation landscapes. The core of native fragments played a primary role in ensuring the persistence of bird diversity, regardless of fragment size. In contrast to pastures, tree plantations likely harbour a higher proportion of forest-dependent species while bird diversity can be further enhanced by reduced management intensity in both matrix types. Strategies to maximize avian persistence should not only include retaining native habitats, but also maximizing the size of core native habitats. Likewise, more structurally complex matrix types should be encouraged while maintaining low levels of land-use intensity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Early online date29 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Aug 2021

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