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The Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Midwestern Grassland Bird Communities

James R. Herkert
Ecological Applications
Vol. 4, No. 3 (Aug., 1994), pp. 461-471
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1941950
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1941950
Page Count: 11
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The Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Midwestern Grassland Bird Communities
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Abstract

The influence of area and vegetation structure on breeding bird communities associated with 24 Illinois grassland fragments (0.5-600 ha) was studied between 1987 and 1989 to document the effects of habitat fragmentation in a severely fragmented midwestern landscape. Fragment area strongly influenced bird communities within grasslands and accounted for a high percentage of the variation in mean breeding bird species richness among fragments (R^2 = 0.84). Breeding bird species richness patterns within 4.5-ha subsections of these grasslands also significantly increased with fragment size. Eight of the 15 (53%) most common bird species had distributions among fragments that were significantly influenced by habitat area, whereas six species (40%) had distributions within fragments that were significantly influenced by vegetation structure only. The Dickcissel (Spiza americana) was the only species with a distribution within fragments that was not significantly associated with either habitat area or vegetation structure. Four groups of birds were identified by an analysis of habitat area and vegetation structure preferences of individual species: area-sensitive species (5 species), edge species (3), vegetation-restricted species (6), and the Dickcissel. Estimates of minimal area requirements for the five area-sensitive species ranged from 5 to 55 ha. Discriminant analyses of habitat suitability within fragments suggests that the absence of area-sensitive grassland bird species form some small fragments may result, in part, from limited habitat availability. All five area-sensitive species, however, also regularly avoided structurally suitable habitat on small grassland fragments. As a result of the considerable extent to which native and, more recently, agricultural grasslands have declined in the Midwest, habitat fragmentation is likely to have caused midwestern grassland bird declines, especially for area-sensitive species.

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