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Habitat amount and quality, not patch size, determine persistence of a woodland-dependent mammal in an agricultural landscape
Context: The classical theory of island biogeography explains loss of species in fragmented landscapes as an effect of remnant patch size and isolation. Recently this has been challenged by the habitat amount and habitat continuum hypotheses, according to which persistence in modified landscapes is related to total habitat amount rather than habitat configuration or the ability of species to use all habitats to varying degrees. Distinguishing between these theories is essential for effective conservation planning in modified landscapes.
Objective: Identify which factors of habitat type, amount and configuration predict the persistence of a keystone woodland specialist, the eastern bettong Bettongia gaimardi, in a fragmented landscape.
Method: In the Midlands region of Tasmania we carried out camera surveys at 62 sites in summer and winter. We included habitat and landscape features to model whether habitat amount or patch size and isolation influenced the presence of the eastern bettong, and to measure effects of habitat quality.
Results: Habitat amount within a 1 km buffer was a better predictor of occupancy than patch size and isolation. Occupancy was also affected by habitat quality, indicated by density of regenerating stems.
Conclusion: Our results support the habitat amount hypothesis as a better predictor of presence. For a species that is able to cross the matrix between remnant patches and utilise multiple patches, the island biogeography concept does not explain habitat use in fragmented landscapes. Our results emphasize the value of small remnant patches for conservation of the eastern bettong, provided those patches are in good condition.
Australian Research Council
Greening Australia (TAS) Ltd
Publication titleLandscape Ecology
Department/SchoolSchool of Natural Sciences
PublisherKluwer Academic Publ
Place of publicationVan Godewijckstraat 30, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 3311 Gz
Rights statementCopyright 2018 Springer Nature B.V.