Consequences of forest fragmentation for the dynamics of bird populations: conceptual issues and the evidence



This paper reviews the consequences of forest fragmentation for the dynamics of bird populations. Owing to high mobility and large home ranges, birds usually perceive fragmented forests in a finegrained manner, i.e. embrace several forest fragments in functional home ranges. On a regional scale, however, coarse-grained clusters of fine-grained fragments (hierarchical fragmentation may sub-divide bird populations into isolated demes, which enter a domain of metapopulation dynamics. Distinctions are made between pure distance-area or population-level effects and more indirect community-level effects due to changes in landscape composition. Distance-area effects, such as insularization and decreasing fragment size, directly prevent dispersal and reduce population size. Landscape effects, such as reduced fragment-matrix and interior-edge ratios, increase the pressure from surrounding predators, competitors, parasites and disease. In short, forest fragmentation can be viewed as a two-step process. Initially, fine-grained fragmentation triggers distance-area and landscape effects on a local scale, which in turn, results in a range retraction of a population to non-fragmented or less fragmented parts of a region. At a certain point, non-fragmented areas become so widely spaced out that regional distance-area effects come into operation, giving rise to metapopulation dynamics. Although few bird metapopulations have yet been documented, metapopulation dynamics probably is a common characteristic of bird populations confined to ‘hierarchical’ fragmented forests.