Novel patch–matrix interactions: patch width influences matrix use by birds


  • Dárius P. Tubelis,

  • David B. Lindenmayer,

  • Ann Cowling

D. P. Tubelis and D. B. Lindenmayer, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National Univ., Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia ( – A. Cowling, Statistical Consulting Unit, The Australian National Univ., Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


This study investigated the influence of the width of patches of native eucalypt forest on bird occurrence in stands of exotic radiata pine (Pinus radiata) forests that surrounded such patches. Boundaries between eucalypt and pine forests were surveyed to examine bird occurrence and species richness at different distances in the pine matrix from eucalypt forest edges. Birds were counted by the area search method within 0.5 ha quadrats at 32 study sites (where sites spanned the boundaries of pine and eucalypt forests). Data were examined using generalised linear mixed models. Species richness and occurrence of particular species in quadrats located within pine forests decreased with increasing distance from eucalypt patches. This resulted, in part, from the fact that several species found in native patches also use pine plantations as additional foraging areas. Species richness decreased more quickly with distance from eucalypt patches in younger than in older pine stands. The width of native forest patches also influenced bird occurrence in adjacent pine forest matrix. Bird species richness decreased more rapidly in exotic plantations adjacent to wide rather than narrow patches of native forest. To the best of our knowledge, no studies have previously reported that dimensions of patches can influence the use of surrounding matrix. We introduce the term “halo effect” for the influence of patch attributes on the differential use of matrix adjacent to native patches. These patterns highlight that conservation efforts in patchy environments should protect not only native patches but also adjacent areas of matrix into which animals extend their home ranges.