Inducing whole-assemblage change by experimental manipulation of habitat structure

R. Mac Nally, Gregory Horrocks

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    28 Citations (Scopus)


    1 Habitat structure long has been identified as a primary factor influencing local assemblage composition. Most evidence has been in the form of correlations of species occurrence and assemblage composition over a range of habitats, with experimental verification of relationships being relatively uncommon because of the difficulties of enacting precise manipulations of habitat structure. 2 Fallen timber (also known as coarse or large woody debris) is one of the few habitat-structural elements in forests and woodlands that can be manipulated with relatively high precision. We report on manipulations of wood-loads on 30 experimental 1-ha plots in floodplain forests of northern Victoria, Australia, over 4 years (one pre- and three post-manipulation). 3 We show that very high wood-loads (80 Mg ha−1) and intermediate wood-loads derived from tree crowns (40 Mg ha−1) increase species richness (all species and ground-foraging species) and numbers of birds (all species and ground-foraging species) relative to the control plots. 4 Three bird species consistently increased most following manipulations: white-plumed honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus (Gould 1837) (fam. Meliphagidae), brown treecreeper Climacteris picumnus (Temm. & Laug. 1824) (fam. Climacteridae) and yellow rosella Platycercus elegans flaveolus (Gould 1837) (fam. Psittacidae). The honeyeater is not considered as a ground or fallen timber dependent species, while the treecreeper and rosella both are regarded as being dependent on ground-layer structure. 5 Fallen timber management needs to be considered in a landscape and temporal context for improving conservation of avian biodiversity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)643-650
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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