Climate drying amplifies the effects of land-use change and interspecific interactions on birds
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Climate change may amplify the effects of land-use change, including induced changes in interspecific interactions.
To investigate whether an avifauna changed over a period of severe drought, and if changes in avifaunas were related to changes in vegetation characteristics and the irruption of a despotic native species, the noisy miner Manorina melanocephala.
In the box–ironbark forests of south-eastern Australia, we resurveyed the avifaunas and remeasured vegetation characteristics in 120 forest transects in 2010–2011 that had previously been measured in 1995–1997.
The avifauna changed markedly over the prolonged drought, and changes were more marked in smaller fragments of remnant vegetation in which more pronounced vegetation change had occurred. The noisy miner increased differentially in smaller remnants adding to the declines, especially for small-bodied birds.
Long droughts interspersed with short wet periods are projected for the region, so the imposition of climate effects on an already much-modified region has profound implications for the avifauna. The noisy miner has (and continues) to benefit from both land-use and climate change, so future sequences of drought interspersed with short wet periods are likely to lead to further changes in the avifauna as the miner extends its occupancy. Differential reductions in small nectarivores and insectivores will affect ecosystem processes, including the control of defoliating insects, seed dispersal and pollination.
KeywordsDespotic species Drought Fragmentation Habitat degradation Habitat loss
The project was partially supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP120200217) and grants from the Bill Holsworth Trust and the Australian Bird Environment Foundation.
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