Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 329–341 | Cite as

Using habitat extent and composition to predict the occurrence of woodland birds in fragmented landscapes

  • Maksym Polyakov
  • Alexei D. Rowles
  • James Q. Radford
  • Andrew F. Bennett
  • Geoff Park
  • Anna Roberts
  • David Pannell
Research Article


The removal, alteration and fragmentation of habitat are key causes of biodiversity decline worldwide. In Australia, temperate woodlands have been disproportionately cleared following European settlement. Biodiversity decline in such systems may be reversed by restoration of native vegetation on agricultural land. However, rebuilding functioning habitat will require understanding the determinants of species distributions in existing habitat. We used logistic regression of bird occurrence data from 240 sites across northern Victoria, to determine the probability of occurrence of 29 woodland-dependent bird species. We modelled occurrence as a function of habitat variables that characterise both the extent (amount) and composition of native vegetation surrounding sites. Our specific goal was to determine whether the predictive performance of models is improved by accounting for both extent and composition of native vegetation compared with models that characterise native vegetation by extent alone. For nearly all species, accounting for vegetation composition in addition to extent and weighting habitat variables by distance improved the explanatory power of models, explaining on average 5.4 % (range 0–27.6 %) of the residual uncertainty in models that accounted for extent alone. Models that incorporate variation in vegetation composition can not only provide more accurate predictions of species occurrence, but also guide more appropriate restoration. They highlight the need for restoration to incorporate sites with fertile soils that support productive vegetation types. These models of woodland birds will be used to inform a spatially-explicit optimisation model for restoring native vegetation cover on agricultural land in this region, with the goal of achieving biodiversity gains while minimizing loss to production.


Habitat fragmentation Patches Landscape context Woodland birds Probability of occurrence Australia 



This research was conducted with the funding support from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre Ltd, Land & Water Australia (Projects DUV06 and DUV11), and the Department of Sustainability and Environment. We thank many private landholders, VicForests and Parks Victoria for access to properties; and Garry Cheers for extensive assistance with field surveys. We acknowledge North Central CMA for providing VicMap GIS data. Comments from several anonymous reviewers were helpful in clarifying and improving the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10980_2012_9831_MOESM1_ESM.doc (62 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 63 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maksym Polyakov
    • 1
  • Alexei D. Rowles
    • 2
    • 3
  • James Q. Radford
    • 4
  • Andrew F. Bennett
    • 5
  • Geoff Park
    • 6
  • Anna Roberts
    • 2
  • David Pannell
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy, School of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Primary IndustriesRutherglenRutherglenAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Management and EcologyLa Trobe UniversityWodongaAustralia
  4. 4.Bush Heritage AustraliaMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.School of Life and Environmental SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  6. 6.North Central Catchment Management AuthorityHuntlyAustralia

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