The effects of landscape fragmentation on nest predation and brood parasitism, the two primary causes of avian reproductive failure, have been difficult to generalize across landscapes, yet few studies have clearly considered the context and spatial scale of fragmentation. Working in two river systems fragmented by agricultural and rural-housing development, we tracked nesting success and brood parasitism in >2500 bird nests in 38 patches of deciduous riparian woodland. Patches on both river systems were embedded in one of two local contexts (buffered from agriculture by coniferous forest, or adjacent to agriculture), but the abundance of agriculture and human habitation within 1 km of each patch was highly variable. We examined evidence for three models of landscape effects on nest predation based on (1) the relative importance of generalist agricultural nest predators, (2) predators associated with the natural habitats typically removed by agricultural development, or (3) an additive combination of these two predator communities. We found strong support for an additive predation model in which landscape features affect nest predation differently at different spatial scales. Riparian habitat with forest buffers had higher nest predation rates than sites adjacent to agriculture, but nest predation also increased with increasing agriculture in the larger landscape surrounding each site. These results suggest that predators living in remnant woodland buffers, as well as generalist nest predators associated with agriculture, affect nest predation rates, but they appear to respond at different spatial scales. Brood parasitism, in contrast, was unrelated to agricultural abundance on the landscape, but showed a strong nonlinear relationship with farm and house density, indicating a critical point at which increased human habitat causes increased brood parasitism. Accurate predictions regarding landscape effects on nest predation and brood parasitism will require an increased appreciation of the multiple scales at which landscape components influence predator and parasite behavior. ?? 2006 by the Ecological Society of America.
Additional publication details
Tests of landscape influence: Nest predation and brood parasitism in fragmented ecosystems