Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 1287–1297 | Cite as

Nonlinear effects of distance to habitat edge on Sprague’s pipits in southern Alberta, Canada

  • Nicola KoperEmail author
  • David J. Walker
  • Janessa Champagne
Research article


Effects of habitat edge may influence habitat quality, but landscape-scale implications of edge effects have rarely been quantified. Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii), a grassland obligate songbird, is declining rapidly throughout its range. Although habitat loss is implicated in the decline, the causes are not well understood. We conducted 290 point counts across a 120 × 130 km study area in southern Alberta, Canada, between 2000 and 2002, and used nonlinear regression to determine effects of distance to water, roads, and cropland or forage habitats on relative abundance of Sprague’s pipits. We then used a geographic information system (GIS) to determine the effect of edges on habitat suitability as indexed by relative abundance. Sprague’s pipit relative abundances declined by 25% from the maximum predicted relative abundance within 900 m (CI = 660–1,280) of croplands or forage crops, and 340 m (CI = 280–460) of wetlands, but there was no effect of roads. Fewer than 1% of grassland patches in the study area contained any habitat far enough away from edge that they would be predicted to support at least 75% of the relative abundance of pipits expected in the absence of edge effects. Only 33% of the landscape can support 75% or more of the relative abundance expected in the absence of edge effects, as a result of habitat conversion or edge effects. Sprague’s pipit populations may be declining in part because edge effects greatly magnify effects of habitat loss.


Alberta Canada Cropland Edge effects Mixed-grass prairie Nonlinear regression Roads Sprague’s pipits Wetlands 



We thank the many research assistants who collected data, and landowners and leaseholders, for their support. J. Ruth drew our attention to the importance of Sprague’s pipits’ aerial display. B. Dale, S. Davis, B. Cade, editors, and 3 other anonymous reviewers provided editorial recommendations on earlier drafts. Support was provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada, The North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Antelope Creek Habitat Development Area, Science Horizons and Summer Career Placements (Environment Canada), the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, John and Patricia Schlosser Environment Scholarship, Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, Bill Shostak Wildlife Award, Richard H. G. Bonnycastle Graduate Fellowship (Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Ducks Unlimited), Margaret (Peg) Brown Award in Environmental Studies and Wildlife Resources, Ralph Steinhauer Award, the University of Alberta Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship, and the Universities of Alberta and Manitoba.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Koper
    • 1
    Email author
  • David J. Walker
    • 2
  • Janessa Champagne
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environment and GeographyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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