Biodiversity and ecological value of conservation lands in agricultural landscapes of southern Ontario, Canada
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- Milne, R.J. & Bennett, L.P. Landscape Ecol (2007) 22: 657. doi:10.1007/s10980-006-9063-5
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In eastern North America, large forest patches have been the primary target of biodiversity conservation. This conservation strategy ignores land units that combine to form the complex emergent rural landscapes typical of this region. In addition, many studies have focussed on one wildlife group at a single spatial scale. In this paper, studies of avian and anuran populations at regional and landscape scales have been integrated to assess the ecological value of agricultural mosaics in southern Ontario on the basis of the maintenance of faunal biodiversity. Field surveys of avian and anuran populations were conducted between 2001 and 2004 at the watershed and sub-watershed levels. The ecological values of land units were based on a combination of several components including species richness, species of conservation concern (rarity), abundance, and landscape parameters (patch size and connectivity). It was determined that habitats such as thicket swamps, coniferous plantations and cultural savannas can play an important role in the overall biodiversity and ecological value of the agricultural landscape. Thicket swamps at the edge of agricultural fields or roads provided excellent breeding habitat for anurans. Coniferous plantations and cultural savannas attracted many birds of conservation concern. In many cases, the land units that provided high ecological value for birds did not score well for frogs. Higher scores for avian and anuran populations were recorded along the Niagara Escarpment and other protected areas as expected. However, some private land areas scored high, some spatially connected to the protected areas and therefore providing an opportunity for private land owners to enter into a management arrangement with the local agencies.