Effects of Matrix Characteristics and Interpatch on Functional Connectivity in Fragmented Temperate Rainforests - MAGRACH - 2012 - Conservation Biology - Wiley Online Library

Abstract: The connectivity of remnant patches of habitat may affect the persistence of species in fragmented landscapes. We evaluated the effects of the structural connectivity of forest patches (ie, distance between patches) and matrix class (land-cover type) on the functional connectivity of 3 bird species (the White-crested Elaenia [Elaenia albiceps], the Green-backed Firecrown Hummingbird [Sephanoides sephaniodes], and the Austral Thrush [Turdus falklandii]. We measured functional connectivity at the rate at which each species crossed from one patch to another. We have also evaluated whether greater functional connectivity (dispersal of fruit and pollen) by comparing among forest patches of fruit and seedlings and adults of 2 plants with bird- and wind-dispersed seeds. Interpatch distance was strongly associated with functional connectivity, but its effect was not independent of matrix class. White-crested Elaenias and Austral Thrushes (both frugivores) were associated with higher densities of this plant. The lack of a similar association for the wind-dispersed species suggests this effect is linked to the dispersal vector. The abundance of the hummingbird-pollinated species was not related to the presence of hummingbirds. Interpatch distance and matrix class affect animal movement in fragmented landscapes and may have a cascading effect on the distribution of some animal-dispersed species. On the basis of our results, we believe effort should be invested in optimizing patch configuration and modifying the matrix so as to mitigate the effects of patch isolation on fragmented landscapes.

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