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Of the forested wetlands that once covered the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, only -25% remain due to large-scale conversion to agriculture. Reforestation efforts are currently underway, but tracts planted with slow-growing oaks maintain the structure of a grassland for 5 yr or longer, and will require at least 40 yr to resemble a mature forest. Nonetheless, it is hoped that reforestation, even in early stages, can effectively increase core area in extant tracts of mature forest by reducing higher rates of nest failure and brood parasitism often associated with forest-agriculture interfaces. To test this, we monitored nests of a mature-forest specialist, the Acadian Flycatcher, in extensive bottomland forests adjacent to agricultural fields and reforested tracts (<20 yr-old). We used an information-theoretic approach to evaluate alternative hypotheses regarding the relative impacts of agriculture and reforestation in the landscape. Controlling for year, season, and stand basal area, there was little evidence that landscape context significantly affected nest survival, although survival tended to increase with decreasing amounts of agriculture. The probability of brood parasitism increased with greater proportions of open habitats in the landscape. There was much stronger support for the hypothesis that parasitism rates depended on the sum of agricultural and reforested tracts, rather than on the amount of agriculture alone. Thus, reforested tracts are not expected to have the desired effect of reducing parasitism rates in the adjacent mature forest until several decades have passed.
Additional Publication Details
Waiting for trees to grow: nest survival, brood parasitism, and the impact of reforestation efforts