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Landscape-moderated bird nest predation in hedges and forest edges

Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology

Abstract

Landscape-scale agricultural intensification has caused severe declines in biodiversity. Hedges and forest remnants may mitigate biodiversity loss by enhancing landscape heterogeneity and providing habitat to a wide range of species, including birds. However, nest predation, the major cause of reproductive failure of birds, has been shown to be higher in forest edges than in forest interiors. Little is known about how spatial arrangement (configuration) of hedges affects the avian nest predation. We performed an experiment with artificial ground and elevated nests (resembling yellowhammer and whitethroat nests) baited with quail and plasticine eggs. Nests were placed in three habitat types with different degrees of isolation from forests: forest edges, hedges connected to forests and hedges isolated from forests. Nest predation was highest in forest edges, lowest in hedges connected to forests and intermediate in isolated hedges. In the early breeding season, we found similar nest predation on ground and elevated nests, but in the late breeding season nest predation was higher on ground nests than on elevated nests. Small mammals were the main predators of ground nests and appeared to be responsible for the increase in predation from early to late breeding season, whereas the elevated nests were mainly depredated by small birds and small mammals. High predation pressure at forest edges was probably caused by both forest and open-landscape predators. The influence of forest predators may be lower at hedges, leading to lower predation pressure than in forest edges. Higher predation pressure in isolated than connected hedges might be an effect of concentration of predators in these isolated habitats. We conclude that landscape configuration of hedges is important in nest predation, with connected hedges allowing higher survival than isolated hedges and forest edges. (C) 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Ludwig, M; Schlinkert, H; Holzschuh, A; Fischer, C; Scherber, C; Trnka, A; Tscharntke, T; Batary, P

Journal: Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology

Year: 2012

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