, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1649-1670
Date: 13 Dec 2008

Bird assemblages in fragmented agricultural landscapes: the role of small brigalow remnants and adjoining land uses

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Abstract

Agricultural intensification typically leads to changes in bird diversity and community composition, with fewer species and foraging guilds present in more intensively managed parts of the landscape. In this study, we compare bird communities in small (2–32 ha) brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) remnants with those in adjacent uncultivated grassland, previously cultivated grassland and current cropland, to determine the contribution of different land uses to bird diversity in the agricultural landscape. Twenty remnant brigalow patches and adjacent agricultural (‘matrix’) areas in southern inland Queensland, Australia were sampled for bird composition and habitat characteristics. The richness, abundance and diversity of birds were all significantly higher in brigalow remnants than in the adjacent matrix of cropping and grassland. Within the matrix, species richness and diversity were higher in uncultivated grasslands than in current cultivation or previously cultivated grasslands. Forty-four percent of bird species were recorded only in brigalow remnants and 78% of species were recorded in brigalow and at least one other land management category. Despite high levels of landscape fragmentation and modification, small patches of remnant brigalow vegetation provide important habitat for a unique and diverse assemblage of native birds. The less intensively managed components of the agricultural matrix also support diverse bird assemblages and thus, may be important for local and regional biodiversity conservation.