Research Article

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 181-193

First online:

Multi-scale models of grassland passerine abundance in a fragmented system in Wisconsin

  • Rosalind B. RenfrewAffiliated withVermont Center for EcostudiesDepartment of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin – Madison Email author 
  • , Christine A. RibicAffiliated withUSGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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Fragmentation of grasslands has been implicated in grassland bird population declines. Multi-scale models are being increasingly used to assess potential factors that influence grassland bird presence, abundance, and productivity. However, studies rarely assess fragmentation metrics, and seldom evaluate more than two scales or interactions among scales. We evaluated the relative importance of characteristics at multiple scales to patterns in relative abundance of Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). We surveyed birds in 74 southwestern Wisconsin pastures from 1997 to 1999 and compared models with explanatory variables from multiple scales: within-patch vegetation structure (microhabitat), patch (macrohabitat), and three landscape extents. We also examined interactions between macrohabitat and landscape factors. Core area of pastures was an important predictor of relative abundance, and composition of the landscape was more important than configuration. Relative abundance was frequently higher in pastures with more core area and in landscapes with more grassland and less wooded area. The direction and strength of the effect of core pasture size on relative abundance changed depending on amount of wooded area in the landscape. Relative abundance of grassland birds was associated with landscape variables more frequently at the 1200-m scale than at smaller scales. To develop better predictive models, parameters at multiple scales and their interactive effects should be included, and results should be evaluated in the context of microhabitat variability, landscape composition, and fragmentation in the study area.


Fragmentation Grassland birds Landscape Area sensitivity Patch Relative abundance Vegetation Modeling AIC