, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 1383-1394
Date: 22 Oct 2011

A reverse keystone species affects the landscape distribution of woodland avifauna: a case study using the Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) and other Australian birds

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Abstract

We explored the effects of a purported ‘reverse keystone species’, the Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) using a long-term, large-scale dataset. Specifically, we identify whether this aggressive bird affects the landscape distribution patterns of other avifauna, by displacing them into, or restricting their distribution to, less productive areas, and in so doing, adheres to ‘isoleg theory’. We sought to determine the effect of abundance of the Noisy Miner on the abundance of other birds (individual species and groups), and determine whether that effect was consistent with varying site productivity, using a negative binomial distribution with a logarithmic link function, and an offset variable to account for variations in search effort. Relationships between abundance of Noisy Miners and habitat variables were examined using a Poisson distribution with a logarithmic link function scaled for extra-variation (quasi-Poisson regression). We demonstrate that when Noisy Miner abundance is low, many small passerine species are more abundant on high productivity sites. However, as Noisy Miner abundance increases, small passerine abundance decreases, with this decrease most apparent on productive sites. The same patterns were not evident for birds considered ‘non-competitors’ of the Noisy Miner. We identify that both site productivity and vegetation structure influence the abundance of the Noisy Miner. We reveal that the species increasingly tolerates ‘less desirable’ habitat attributes with increasing site productivity. The preference of the Noisy Miner for productive areas is likely to have deleterious impacts on the long-term survival and reproductive success of other Australian woodland bird species, many of which have already undergone severe declines.