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Keywords:

  • birds;
  • dune forest;
  • mining;
  • patch occupancy;
  • rehabilitation;
  • woody plants

Successional processes should increase habitat complexity, and increase resources available for forest-associated species. However, according to the theory of Island Biogeography, the size, amount of edge, and isolation of a habitat patch will influence the probability of successful colonization. If this is true for restoring patches of coastal dune forest, then restoration managers need to mitigate for spatial characteristics.

We used patch occupancy models to assess correlations between the probability of forest birds and trees being present in a patch and patch characteristics that measured age, area, isolation, and the amount of edge. We surveyed birds and trees in an unmined coastal dune forest, remnant patches within the mine lease, and regenerating patches, some of which were being rehabilitated by a mining company. Contrary to expectations patch age only explained the patch occupancy of 6 of 21 birds and 11 of 25 woody plant species. Landscape spatial parameters, measuring edge, isolation, and area explained the patch occupancy of the remaining 15 birds and 14 woody plant species. However, responses to patch characteristics were varied and idiosyncratic. These varied responses may be related to species habitat affinities, dispersal abilities, and establishment constraints. For restoration to succeed, managers need to consider the spatial configuration of the landscape to facilitate colonization of rehabilitating patches.