The influence of landscape features on nest predation rates of grassland-breeding waders

Rebecca A. Laidlaw (Lead Author), Jennifer Smart, Mark A. Smart, Jennifer A. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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In Europe, lowland wet grasslands have become increasingly fragmented, and populations of waders in these fragments are subject to unsustainably high levels of nest predation. Patches of taller vegetation in these landscapes can support small mammals, which are the main source of prey for many predators. Providing such patches of habitat could potentially reduce levels of nest predation if predators preferentially target small mammals. However, predator attraction to patches of taller vegetation for foraging, shelter, perching and/or nesting could also result in local increases in predation rates, as a consequence of increased predator densities or spill-over foraging into the surrounding area. Here we assess the influence of taller vegetation on wader nest predation rates, and the feasibility of managing vegetation structure to alter predator impacts. Between 2005 and 2011, the nest distribution and hatching success of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, which nest in the open, and Common Redshanks Tringa totanus, which conceal their nests in vegetation, were measured on a 487-ha area of wet grassland in eastern England that is primarily managed for breeding waders. Predation rates of Lapwing nests increased significantly with distance from patches of taller vegetation, and decreased with increasing area of taller vegetation within 1 km of the nest, whereas neither variable influenced Redshank nest predation probability. These findings suggest that the distribution and activity of nest predators in lowland wet grassland landscapes may be influenced by the presence and distribution of areas of taller vegetation. For Lapwings at least, there may therefore be scope for landscape-scale management of vegetation structure to influence levels of predation in these habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-712
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Early online date8 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

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