Breeding and persistence of woodland birds in restoration plantings

Date: 22, Apr, 2020
Author(s):   Belder, D.
Publisher: Australian National University

PhD thesis

Habitat loss and fragmentation are major influences on the distribution and composition of ecological communities, and are also linked to a loss of agricultural productivity due to ecosystem degradation. As such, there is increasing impetus for the implementation of revegetation in fragmented agricultural landscapes worldwide. Restoration plantings are often intended to provide habitat for threatened fauna and restore ecosystem health. In Australia, loss of temperate woodland habitat has caused the decline of many woodland bird species. There have been numerous studies investigating how bird community richness and abundance is influenced by restoration plantings and other woodland patches in fragmented agricultural landscapes, but this "pattern-focused" research does not provide evidence that restoration plantings can support resident populations of woodland birds. This approach limits the ability of land managers and scientists to assess whether woodland patches provide suitable habitat for woodland birds, and therefore to effectively assess whether restoration plantings are fulfilling their fundamental purpose as a conservation strategy. In this thesis, I address this knowledge gap through an empirical research project undertaken in the South-west Slopes bioregion of New South Wales, Australia. The series of papers presented in this thesis examines the research questions in increasing detail, beginning with a comprehensive literature review that places the remaining chapters in context of the broad knowledge gap (Chapter 1), then recording evidence of breeding activity (Chapter 2), monitoring nest success and daily nest survival (Chapter 3), and examining the home ranges and annual survival of individually tagged woodland birds (Chapter 4). These papers collectively represent a detailed study of the responses of woodland birds to box-gum grassy woodland restoration plantings in a fragmented agricultural landscape. I offer management implications of each chapter's key findings in the relevant discussion sections, and conclude the thesis with a synthesis of applications and directions for future research on the topic.