We tested how edges affect nest survival and predator distribution in a native tallgrass prairie system in southwestern Missouri using artificial nests, natural nests of Dickcissels (Spiza americana) and Henslow's Sparrows (Ammodramus henslowii), and mammal track stations. Survival of artificial nests was lower within 30 m of forest edge. Nesting success of Dickcissels and Henslow's Sparrows was lower within 50 m to a shrubby edge than at greater distances, whereas fates of nests were not related to distances to roads, agricultural fields, or forests. Evidence from clay eggs placed in artificial nests indicated that mid-sized carnivores were the major predators within 30 m of forest edges. Furthermore, mid-sized carnivores visited track stations most frequently within 50 m of forest edges. Because proximity of woody habitat explained more variation in nest survival and mammal activity than did fragment size, it appears that edge effects were more pronounced than area effects. Edge effects appeared to be caused mainly by greater exposure of nests to midsized carnivores. We argue that, based on edge avoidance behavior, 'grassland-interior' species such as the Henslow's Sparrow respond to edge effects mainly by a decrease in density, whereas habitat generalists such as the Dickcissel are affected mainly by a decrease in nesting success.
Additional publication details
Evidence for edge effects on multiple levels in tallgrass prairie