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The relative importance of patch habitat quality and landscape attributes on a declining steppe-bird metapopulation

AuthorsVögeli, Matthias; Serrano, David ; Pacios, Fernando ; Tella, José Luis
Issue Date2010
CitationBiological Conservation 143: 1057- 1067 (2010)
AbstractMetapopulation theory is one of the most popular approaches to identify the factors affecting the spatial and temporal dynamics of populations in fragmented habitat networks. Habitat quality, patch area and isolation are mainly focused on when analyzing distribution patterns in fragmented landscapes. The effects of landscape heterogeneity in the non-occupied matrix, however, have been largely neglected. Here, we determined the relative importance of patch quality and landscape attributes on the occurrence, density and extinction of the Dupont's lark (Chersophilus duponti), an endangered steppe passerine whose habitat has been extremely reduced to highly isolated and fragmented patches embedded in a mainly unsuitable landscape matrix. Habitat patch quality, measured in terms of vegetation structure, grazing pressure, arthropod availability, predator abundance, and inter-specific competition, did not affect occurrence, density or extinction. At the landscape scale, however, the species' occurrence was principally determined by the interactions among patch size, geographic isolation and landscape matrix. Isolation had the main independent contribution to explaining the probability of occurrence, followed by landscape matrix composition and patch size. The species' density was negatively correlated to patch size, suggesting crowding effects in small fragments, while extinction events were exclusively related to isolation. Our findings suggest that landscape rather than local population characteristics are crucial in determining the patterns of distribution and abundance of non-equilibrium populations in highly fragmented habitat networks. Consequently, conservation measures for these species should simultaneously involve patch size, isolation and landscape matrix and apply to the entire metapopulation rather than to particular patches. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.12.040
issn: 0006-3207
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