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Determinants of Songbird Habitat Quality and Selection

Understanding how variation in vegetative floristics and structure influences habitat quality and the processes by which songbirds select one forest patch over another is key to managing high-value habitats for wildlife.

Migratory Songbird Stopover Habitat Quality in the Great Lakes Region

In collaboration with Dr. Jeff Buler at the University of Delaware, we are conducting research to measure the habitat quality of stopover sites for migratory songbirds in the Great Lakes region. Our project aims to provide stakeholders with essential tools to manage high-quality stopover habitats for migratory birds. We are developing a Decision Support Tool for land managers, detailing optimal combinations of native plant species and vegetative structures to maximize habitat quality. This tool will be based on comprehensive data collected from Rapid Assessment of Stopover Site (RASS) protocols, which include audio-visual surveys, bird banding, and blood metabolite analyses to assess fat deposition and feeding activity. Additionally, we are producing next-generation interactive maps that identify stopover site locations across both coastal and inland areas of the Great Lakes Basin. These maps will allow stakeholders to predict changes in stopover site use based on hypothetical management and restoration actions. This collaborative effort will fill a significant gap in understanding the drivers of stopover habitat quality, helping land managers with best practices to maintain high-quality habitats amidst environmental stressors like climate change, invasive species, and habitat degradation.

 

Ongoing Research into Forest Fragmentation at the BDFFP

The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) has provided invaluable insights into the impacts of forest fragmentation on tropical bird species. Initial research documented significant changes in bird species composition, abundance, and behavior within these fragments, such as the "crowding effect" observed immediately after isolation, where birds sought refuge in the fragments. Over time, many species, especially those dependent on continuous forest habitats, faced local extinctions. However, research also highlighted the potential for secondary forests to support biodiversity through species recolonization as the surrounding matrix regenerates. My collaborative research builds off these foundational insights, demonstrating how forest fragmentation, and subsequent regeneration leads to distinct communities within fragments when compared to islands of similar sizes, with different species exhibiting dissimilar habitat use of forest edges compared to the interior. We also analyzed the decay of interspecific avian flock networks, illustrating how fragmentation disrupts complex social structures among bird species. Additionally, our research has indicated non-random taxonomic loss, with certain families and genera being more susceptible to extinction in smaller fragments and that fragment size affects the age distribution of birds within habitat patches. This extensive body of work underscores the importance of fragment size and the condition of the surrounding matrix in maintaining bird populations and biodiversity in fragmented tropical landscapes.

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