We conducted a 3‐year field experiment to measure the frequency of bird movements through riparian buffer strips before and after harvesting of adjacent forest. Our study was conducted in the boreal mixed wood forest of Alberta and was designed to determine empirically whether songbirds use riparian buffer strips of forest connecting forest reserves as corridors and if they move along these buffer strips more frequently than they cross adjacent clearcuts. We used mist nets to obtain an index of the frequency of bird movement in the forest, and we observed bird movements across adjacent clearcuts for comparison. We predicted that the frequency of movement would be greater (1) in buffer strips after harvesting of adjacent forest than before harvesting, (2) in buffer strips than across clearcuts and, (3) in buffer strips than at control sites (lakeshore forest with no adjacent clearcuts). After adjusting for year‐to‐year variation in abundance, we found that capture rates increased significantly from pre‐ to post‐harvest, but only for juveniles. Capture rates of adults decreased immediately after harvesting, probably because of the removal of an adjacent source of birds that previously moved through the lakeside forest. Movement rates of forest species in clearcuts were significantly lower than capture rates in the forest. The number of adults captured was positively correlated with the number of territories in the buffer strips, indicating that most birds captured were probably residents. The number of local territories was a poor predictor of juvenile captures, supporting the notion that juveniles were likely dispersing individuals. Our results indicate that buffer strips enhanced movements of juveniles (i.e., acted as corridors) and maintained movement rates of adults. Furthermore, there appeared to be a threshold distance between reserves below which birds may be less reluctant to fly across openings, making corridor use less important.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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