Spatial metrics effect of forest fragmentation on forest bird abundance and site occupancy probability: The influence of patch size and isolation
The persistence of species taxa within fragmented habitats is dependent on the source–sink metapopulation processes, and forest patch size and isolation are key factors. Unveiling species–patch area and/or species–patch isolation relationships may help provide crucial information for species and landscape management. In this study, relationship between forest patch size and isolation with abundance and occupancy probability of forest-dependent birds was investigated. This study was based within a coastal landscape that faces deleterious human activities such as clearing for agriculture. The study aimed to answer the question of whether the size and extent of isolation of forest patches influence abundance and/or occupancy probability of forest-specialist and generalist birds. Two bird species, namely Tiny Greenbul Phyllastrephus debilis subsp. rabai and Yellow-bellied Greenbul Chlorocichla flaviventris, were used as models. Birds were surveyed using distance sampling methods, and spatial metrics were measured from satellite imagery. Focal forest size and distance between forest patches were the most influential metrics whereby abundance and occupancy probabilities increased with increasing patch size, but were negatively influenced by increasing gaps between patches. These findings provide evidence of the existence of patch size/ isolation–occupancy relationships characterised by higher occupancy rate of large patches and distance-dependent dispersal, which decreased with increasing gaps between patches. Controlling deleterious human activities that reduce forest size should be a priority for the long-term conservation of forest-dependent birds.
Keywords: biogeography, East Africa coastal forests, forest birds, habitat fragmentation, hotspot, Tanzania