Identifying the ecological and life-history traits that render species vulnerable to fragmentation is an important prerequisite for the development of effective conservation strategies to minimize future biodiversity losses. When determining how species traits influence vulnerability to fragmentation, however, several important confounding factors such as detectability and synergistic effects among traits are rarely considered. In this study, after controlling for these methodological shortcomings, we determined how species traits influenced fragmentation vulnerability using bird data collected from islands created by the inundation of the Thousand Island Lake, China. We obtained eight species traits from field surveys and from the literature: natural abundance, geographical range size, habitat specificity, body size, trophic level, mobility, fecundity, and nest type. After phylogenetic correction, these traits were used separately and in combination to assess their associations with the index of fragmentation vulnerability, the proportion of islands occupied. Inclusion of detectability in analysis resulted in considerable increases in overall island occupancy for all species in general and for cryptic species in particular. Accounting for detectability altered the rank of best models and thus influenced the identification of the relationships between species traits and fragmentation vulnerability. We found synergistic interactions between natural abundance and habitat specificity. Our findings highlight the importance of incorporating detectability and synergistic effects among traits into future studies. From a conservation perspective, our results suggest that we should give priority conservation efforts to rare species with low natural abundance and high habitat specificity.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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