Living on the edge: utilising lidar data to assess the importance of vegetation structure for avian diversity in fragmented woodlands and their edges

Melin, M.; Hinsley, S.A.; Broughton, R.K.; Bellamy, P.; Hill, R.A.. 2018 Living on the edge: utilising lidar data to assess the importance of vegetation structure for avian diversity in fragmented woodlands and their edges. Landscape Ecology, 33 (6). 895-910.

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Context: In agricultural landscapes, small woodland patches can be important wildlife refuges. Their value in maintaining biodiversity may, however, be compromised by isolation, and so knowledge about the role of habitat structure is vital to understand the drivers of diversity. This study examined how avian diversity and abundance were related to habitat structure in four small woods in an agricultural landscape in eastern England. Objectives: The aims were to examine the edge effect on bird diversity and abundance, and the contributory role of vegetation structure. Specifically - what is the role of vegetation structure on edge effects, and which edge structures support the greatest bird diversity? Methods: Annual breeding bird census data for 28 species were combined with airborne lidar data in linear mixed models fitted separately at (i) the whole wood level, and (ii) for the woodland edges only. Results: Despite relatively small woodland areas (4.9–9.4 ha), bird diversity increased significantly towards the edges, being driven in part by vegetation structure. At the whole woods level, diversity was positively associated with increased vegetation above 0.5 m and especially with increasing vegetation density in the understorey layer, which was more abundant at the woodland edges. Diversity along the edges was largely driven by the density of vegetation below 4 m. Conclusions: The results demonstrate that bird diversity was maximised by a diverse vegetation structure across the wood and especially a dense understorey along the edge. These findings can assist bird conservation by guiding habitat management of remaining woodland patches.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0921-2973
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: avian diversity, fragmentation, vegetation structure, lidar, forest edge, habitat structure, edge effect, biodiversity
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 18 Apr 2018 11:03 +0 (UTC)

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