Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Relative influence of habitat modification and interspecific competition on woodland bird assemblages in eastern Australia

M. Maron A B D , A. Main A B , M. Bowen A B , A. Howes A B , J. Kath C , C. Pillette A B and C. A. McAlpine A B

A The University of Queensland, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.

B The University of Queensland, Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group, Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.

C Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments and Faculty of Science, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD 4350, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: m.maron@uq.edu.au

Emu 111(1) 40-51 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU09108
Submitted: 26 November 2009  Accepted: 4 June 2010   Published: 21 February 2011

Abstract

Many of eastern Australia’s woodland birds have declined in recent decades. Although historical landscape transformation ultimately underlies these declines, effective conservation action requires knowledge of the relative importance of current threats to woodland birds. Through a literature review and analysis of empirical data from seven woodland regions, we investigated the relative importance of habitat structure, site context and aggressive avian competitors (miners, Manorina spp.) for woodland birds in eastern Australia. The literature review revealed that the factor which most consistently influenced the richness, abundance and assemblage composition of woodland birds was the density or presence of Manorina honeyeaters. A positive effect of site structural complexity was also often reported, but the effects of area, isolation and grazing varied among the reviewed studies. Across the seven empirical datasets, density of Manorina honeyeaters was responsible for the great majority of the independently explained variance in all but one region. We conclude that interspecific competition with Manorina honeyeaters is one of the most important and widespread processes threatening woodland birds in eastern Australia. In regions where this threatening process is prevalent, the greatest conservation gains for woodland birds may therefore be achieved by focussing on reducing habitat suitability for aggressive Manorina honeyeaters.

Additional keywords: fragmentation, grazing, habitat structure, Manorina, Noisy Miner, patch area, Yellow-throated Miner.


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