Bird functional diversity enhances insectivory at forest edges: a transcontinental experiment
The role of bird–insect interactions in shaping bird distribution patterns at the landscape scale has been seldom investigated. In mosaic landscapes, bird functional diversity is considered to be an important driver of avian insectivory, but depends on forest fragmentation and edge effects from adjacent, non-forest habitats. In a transcontinental experiment, we investigated edge and landscape effects on bird functional diversity and insectivory in mosaic landscapes of mixed forests and open habitats.
New Zealand and France.
We paired edge and interior plots in native forest fragments in New Zealand and native plantation forests in France. We sampled bird communities using point-counts and linear transects respectively and simultaneously quantified avian insectivory as the rate of bird attacks on plasticine models mimicking tree-feeding Lepidoptera larvae. The same seven life traits and attributes were compiled for French and New Zealand birds, including biogeographic origin, body mass, mobility, foraging method, adult diet, nest location and clutch size. Bird functional diversity was quantified on this multitrait basis by four indices: functional richness, evenness, divergence and dispersion. We used mixed models to test for the effects of forest edges, study area, surrounding landscape diversity and native forest cover on bird functional diversity and insectivory.
We found higher bird functional richness at forest edges than interiors in New Zealand and lower functional richness at edges in France. However, bird functional evenness and divergence were significantly higher at forest edges in the two countries. Functional evenness and dispersion both increased with landscape diversity and evenness increased with native forest cover. Moreover, bird insectivory increased at forest edges with functional evenness, irrespective of the study area.
We suggest that intermediate levels of forest fragmentation and edge effects increase avian insectivory in mosaic landscapes, through enhanced functional evenness and trait complementation within predatory bird assemblages.