Distribution of specialist and generalist species along spatial gradients of habitat disturbance and fragmentation


  • Vincent Devictor,

  • Romain Julliard,

  • Frédéric Jiguet

V. Devictor (devictor@mnhn.fr), R. Julliard and F. Jiguet, MNHN-CNRS-UPMC, UMR-5173 ‘Conservation des espèces, restauration et suivi des populations’, Mus. Natl d'Histoire Naturelle, 55 rue Buffon, CP 51, FR-75005 Paris, France.


In this paper, we tested whether the spatial distribution of a given species in more or less fragmented and disturbed landscapes depends on the species habitat specialization. We studied 891 spatial replicates from the French Breeding Bird Survey (FBBS) monitored at least two years during 2001–2005, and two independent landscape databases measuring respectively landscape fragmentation and recent landscape disturbance on each FBBS replicate. We used a continuous habitat specialization index for the 105 most common bird species monitored by the FBBS. We further modelled the spatial variation in abundance of each species according to fragmentation and disturbance across FBBS replicates, accounting for habitat differences and spatial trends. We then tested whether more or less specialized species responded to landscape fragmentation and disturbance. We found that the more specialist a species, the more negative its spatial response to landscape fragmentation and disturbance. Although there was a very high variation around these tendencies indicating that there are many other drivers of species distribution, our results suggest that measuring specialization may be helpful in predicting which species are likely to thrive in human degraded landscapes. We also emphasize the need to consider both positive and negative species responses when assessing consequences of habitat change in communities.