The influence of livestock grazing and weed invasion on habitat use by birds in grassy woodland remnants

Maron, Martine and Lill, Alan (2005) The influence of livestock grazing and weed invasion on habitat use by birds in grassy woodland remnants. Biological Conservation, 124 (4). pp. 439-450. ISSN 0006-3207


Remnants of native vegetation in regions dominated by agriculture are subject to degradation, especially by livestock grazing and weed invasion. Ground-foraging birds
are amongst the most threatened bird groups in Australia, and these agents of degradation might be contributing to their decline by causing a reduction in food availability. We studied the foraging behaviour and microhabitat use of seven species of ground-foraging insectivores in south-eastern Australian buloke woodland remnants with native, grazed and weedy ground-layers. If birds must resort to using more energetically expensive prey-attack manoeuvres, or selectively use substrates and microhabitats that are less available in degraded habitats, then such degradation is likely to be negatively impacting on these species. We found evidence of a negative impact of one or both of these types of degradation on five of the seven bird species. Three species that employ a range of foraging manoeuvres to attack prey used potentially more energetically-expensive aerial manoeuvres significantly more frequently in weedy remnants than in remnants with a native or grazed ground layer. Red-capped robins Petroica goodenovii and brown treecreepers Climacteris picumnus both selectively foraged near trees in grazed sites, and hooded robins Melanodryas
cucullata, red-capped robins and willie wagtails Rhipidura leucophrys avoided foraging in microhabitats with a high percentage cover of exotic grasses in weedy sites. Brown
treecreepers were also less likely to be present in weedy sites that had been protected from grazing than in either grazed or native sites. These results suggest that although
grazing appears to have a detrimental impact on foraging habitat of ground-foraging birds, the exclusion of livestock grazing from previously disturbed buloke remnants
alone is not adequate to restore habitat values for ground-foraging birds. A conservation strategy for this habitat type should consider the exclusion of heavy grazing from sites 3 with an intact cryptogamic crust and the management of weeds in disturbed remnants, potentially through the use of carefully controlled light grazing.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Authors' final corrected manuscript. Deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Biological and Physical Sciences
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:56
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:41
Uncontrolled Keywords: vegetation remnants; ground-foraging birds
Fields of Research : 06 Biological Sciences > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology
05 Environmental Sciences > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
Socio-Economic Objective: D Environment > 96 Environment > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.02.002

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