Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
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Cornell, K., and T. Donovan. 2010. Effects of spatial habitat heterogeneity on habitat selection and annual fecundity for a forest songbird. Landscape Ecology 25:109-122.


Understanding how spatial habitat patterns influence abundance and dynamics of animal populations is a primary goal in landscape ecology. We used an information-theoretic approach to investigate the association between habitat patterns at multiple spatial scales and demographic patterns for black-throated blue warblers (Dendroica caerulescens) at 20 study sites in west-central Vermont, USA from 2002 to 2005. Sites were characterized by: (1) territory-scale shrub density, (2) patch-scale shrub density occurring within 25 ha of territories, and (3) landscape-scale habitat patterns occurring within 5 km radius extents of territories. We considered multiple population parameters including abundance, age ratios, and annual fecundity. Territory-scale shrub density was most important for determining abundance and age ratios, but landscape-scale habitat structure strongly influenced reproductive output. Sites with higher territory-scale shrub density had higher abundance, and were more likely to be occupied by older, more experienced individuals compared to sites with lower shrub density. However, annual fecundity was higher on sites located in contiguously forested landscapes where shrub density was lower than the fragmented sites. Further, effects of habitat pattern at one spatial scale depended on habitat conditions at different scales. For example, abundance increased with increasing territory-scale shrub density, but this effect was much stronger in fragmented landscapes than in contiguously forested landscapes. These results suggest that habitat pattern at different spatial scales affect demographic parameters in different ways, and that effects of habitat patterns at one spatial scale depends on habitat conditions at other scales.