, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1045-1059

A multi-scaled analysis of avian response to habitat amount and fragmentation in the Canadian dry mixed-grass prairie

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Abstract

Previous research has suggested that ducks and songbirds may benefit from prairie landscapes that consist primarily of contiguous grasslands. However, the relative importance of landscape-level vs. local characteristics on mechanisms underlying observed patterns is unclear. We measured effects of grassland amount and fragmentation on upland and wetland songbird and duck density and nest success, and on some nest predators, across 16 landscapes in southern Alberta, Canada. We compared these landscape-level effects with local-scale responses, including distance to various edges and vegetation characteristics. We also evaluated several statistical approaches to comparing effects of habitat characteristics at multiple spatial scales. Few species were influenced by grassland amount or fragmentation. In contrast, distance to edge and local vegetation characteristics had significant effects on densities and nest success of many species. Previous studies that reported effects of landscape characteristics may have detected patterns driven by local mechanisms. As a corollary, results were very sensitive to statistical model structure; landscape level effects were much less apparent when local characteristics were included in the models.