Revegetation and reproduction: do restoration plantings in agricultural landscapes support breeding populations of woodland birds?

Date: 06, Feb, 2020
Author(s):   Belder, D.J., Pierson, J.C., Ikin, K., Lindenmayer, D.B.
Publisher: Oecologia

Restoration plantings are frequently occupied by native wildlife, but little is known about how planting attributes influence breeding by, and persistence of, fauna populations. We monitored breeding success of woodland birds in restoration plantings in a fragmented agricultural landscape in south-eastern Australia. We documented nest fate and daily nest survival (DSR) in plantings and remnant woodland sites. We analysed the influence on breeding success of patch attributes (size, shape, type) compared to other potentially influential predictors such as nest-site and microhabitat variables. We found that, in general, patch attributes did not play a significant role in determining breeding success for woodland birds. However, we examined a subset of species of conservation concern, and found higher DSR for these species in restoration plantings than in similarly sized woodland remnants. We also found negative effects of patch size and linearity on DSR in species of conservation concern. The primary cause of nest failure was predation (91%). We used camera trap imagery to identify the most common nest predators in our study sites: native predatory bird species, and the introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Our findings are further evidence of the value of restoration plantings and small habitat patches for bird populations in fragmented agricultural landscapes. We recommend controlling for foxes to maximise the likelihood that restoration plantings and other woodland patches in Australia support breeding populations of woodland birds. More broadly, our study highlights the importance of taking a detailed, population-oriented approach to understanding factors that influence habitat suitability for fauna of conservation concern.