Distribution and abundance patterns of a newly colonizing species in Tunisian oases: the Common Blackbird Turdus merula


*Corresponding author.Email: slaheddine.selmi@fsg.rnu.tn


We investigated distribution and abundance patterns of a recently arrived species in the oases of southern Tunisia: the Common Blackbird Turdus merula. In this system, we expected that the vegetation structure and geographical locations of oases would have played an important part in shaping the patterns of oasis occupancy and local abundance. Using data collected at 53 oases during two breeding seasons, we found that Blackbird occurrence in a given oasis depended mainly on its presence at neighbouring oases. However, vegetation structure did not prove to be a relevant predictor of Blackbird occurrence. Within occupied oases, local abundance was associated with vegetation structure, namely with the diversity and abundance of the two lowest vegetation layers: fruit trees and herbaceous plants. The presence of Blackbirds at neighbouring oases was not found to account for local abundance. Overall, our results suggest that the distribution and abundance of this newly colonizing species in the southern Tunisian oasis system are influenced by processes acting at two different spatial scales. Landscape-scale processes (i.e. dispersal and colonization from nearby occupied oases) are likely to play an important role in shaping the pattern of oasis occupancy, whereas local-scale factors seem to be more relevant in determining the abundance of locally established populations.