MATRIX EFFECTS ON INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNITY-LEVEL RESPONSES OF BIRDS TO FOREST FRAGMENTATION IN JAMAICA
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Land cover between habitat patches ("matrix") can impact species persistence in fragmented landscapes by altering resource availability, edge effects, or inter-patch movement. This thesis examines how the matrix affects the Neotropical bird community in central Jamaica in landscapes where forest is embedded in three human-dominated matrix types (agriculture, peri-urban development, and bauxite mining) and one natural "matrix" (continuous forest).
First, I examine whether richness, community composition, and abundances of resident birds differ in ~100 forest patches within the four matrix types, and relate species responses to traits influencing dispersal, resource acquisition, and/or population growth. Agricultural landscapes were found to retain avian diversity and community assemblages most similar to intact forest relative to peri-urban and bauxite landscapes. Traits related to resource acquisition best predicted species responses, indicating that resource limitation driven by the matrix may be a primary factor driving bird responses to fragmentation.
Next, I determine the relative influence of patch area, isolation, vegetation structure, and matrix type on the occupancy dynamics of resident insectivorous birds. Within-patch vegetation and matrix type were the most important determinants of colonization and extinction, but the effects of patch area, isolation, and vegetation on occupancy dynamics were matrix- and species-dependent. Across the community, the matrix influenced extinction probabilities more than colonization, indicating that extinction processes likely drive population dynamics.
Finally, I examine the relative permeability of peri-urban, bauxite, and forested landscapes on the movement of the migrant American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) and the resident Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) by experimentally translocating > 140 birds 0.6-4 km from their territories across landscape treatments. Redstarts returned with greater success and faster speed than Todies. Return success was not impacted by landscape treatment, but both species returned more rapidly in forest relative to bauxite matrix, with return times intermediate in a peri-urban matrix. These findings indicate that bird mobility in fragmented landscapes is mediated by the landscape matrix.
This research is among few empirical studies to discern the impacts of different matrix types on species patterns and processes. These results inform theory on fragmentation as well as bird conservation in an understudied system.