Beyond pattern to process: current themes and future directions for the conservation of woodland birds through restoration plantings - Journal

Date: 14, Oct, 2018
Author(s):   Donna J. Belder, Jennifer C. Pierson, Karen Ikin and David B. Lindenmayer
Publisher: CSIRO

Habitat loss as a result of land conversion for agriculture is a leading cause of global biodiversity loss and altered ecosystem processes. Restoration plantings are an increasingly common strategy to address habitat loss in fragmented agricultural landscapes. However, the capacity of restoration plantings to support reproducing populations of native plants and animals is rarely measured or monitored. This review focuses on avifaunal response to revegetation in Australian temperate woodlands, one of the world’s most heavily altered biomes. Woodland birds are a species assemblage of conservation concern, but only limited research to date has gone beyond pattern data and occupancy trends to examine whether they persist and breed in restoration plantings. Moreover, habitat quality and resource availability, including food, nesting sites and adequate protection from predation, remain largely unquantified. Several studies have found that some bird species, including species of conservation concern, will preferentially occupy restoration plantings relative to remnant woodland patches. However, detailed empirical research to verify long-term population growth, colonisation and extinction dynamics is lacking. If restoration plantings are preferentially occupied but fail to provide sufficient quality habitat for woodland birds to form breeding populations, they may act as ecological traps, exacerbating population declines. Monitoring breeding success and site fidelity are under-utilised pathways to understanding which, if any, bird species are being supported by restoration plantings in the long term. There has been limited research on these topics internationally, and almost none in Australian temperate woodland systems. Key knowledge gaps centre on provision of food resources, formation of optimal foraging patterns, nest-predation levels and the prevalence of primary predators, the role of brood parasitism, and the effects of patch size and isolation on resource availability and population dynamics in a restoration context. To ensure that restoration plantings benefit woodland birds and are cost-effective as conservation strategies, the knowledge gaps identified by this review should be investigated as priorities in future research.