Development of effective conservation plans for terrestrial animals will require some assessment of which human-modified and natural habitats can support populations of priority species. We examined bird communities associated with 11 natural and human-modified habitats in Panama and assessed the importance of those habitats for species of different vulnerability to disturbance. We calculated habitat importance scores using both relative habitat preferences and vulnerability scores for all species present. Species of moderate and high vulnerability were primarily those categorized as forest specialists or forest generalists. As expected, even species-rich nonforest habitats provided little conservation value for the most vulnerable species. However, shaded coffee plantations and gallery forest corridors were modified habitats with relatively high conservation value. Sugar cane fields and Caribbean pine plantations offered virtually no conservation value for birds. Our method of assessing the conservation importance of different habitats is useful because it considers the types of species present and the potential role of the habitat in the conservation of those species (i.e., habitat preference). This method of habitat evaluation could be tailored to other conservation contexts with any measure of species vulnerability desired.
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Evaluating the importance of human-modified lands for neotropical bird conservation