Edge geometry influences patch-level habitat use by an edge specialist in south-eastern Australia
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We investigated patterns in habitat use by the noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala) along farmland-woodland edges of large patches of remnant vegetation (>300 ha) in the highly fragmented box-ironbark woodlands and forests of central Victoria, Australia. Noisy miners exclude small birds from their territories, and are considered a significant threat to woodland bird communities in the study region. Seventeen different characteristics of edge habitat were recorded, together with the detection or non-detection of noisy miners along 129 500-m segments of patch edge. Habitat characteristics ranged from patch-level factors related to patch-edge geometry to site-level floristic factors. Backward (stepwise) logistic regression analyses were used to identify habitat characteristics that were associated with the occupancy of a site by noisy miners. After accounting for the effects of spatial autocorrelation on the occurrence of noisy miners along edges, we identified projections of remnant vegetation from the patch edge into the agricultural matrix (e.g., corners of patches, peninsulas of vegetation) and clumps of trees in the agricultural matrix within 100 m of the edge as significant predictors of the occupancy of edges by noisy miners. This relationship was also confirmed in two other geographically and floristically distinct habitats within Victoria. The use of edges with projections by noisy miners may confer advantages in interspecific territorial defence. In light of these results, we advocate revegetation strategies that attempt to enclose projections within 100 m of the edge, with fencing placed out to this new boundary, to reduce the likelihood of colonisation and domination of an edge by noisy miners. Our study highlights the need for greater consideration to be given to the patterns in habitat use by aggressive edge specialists, particularly in relation to patch-edge geometry and other human-induced components of landscapes.