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Oecologia. 2010 Apr;162(4):965-76. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1547-y. Epub 2010 Jan 5.

Bird diversity and seed dispersal along a human land-use gradient: high seed removal in structurally simple farmland.

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  • 1Community and Macroecology Group, Department of Ecology, Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg-University, 55099 Mainz, Germany. breitbach@uni-mainz.de

Abstract

Only few studies have analysed the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function at the landscape scale although relationships and mechanisms known from experimental studies might be different in natural systems. We quantified bird diversity and seed removal from 38 wild cherry trees (Prunus avium) along a human land-use gradient from forest to structurally diverse to simple agricultural systems. High human land-use intensity led to low species richness and total abundance of the local bird community around wild cherry trees, as expected from previous studies. Nevertheless, trees in structurally simple agroecosystems were visited as frequently as trees in structurally complex landscapes and in forests. Furthermore, the number of seeds removed per tree did not decline with increasing human land-use intensity. Thus, ecosystem function was robust in spite of locally reduced bird diversity. The reason might be that movement behaviour and movement distances of birds changed along the human land-use gradient. It appears that birds moved longer distances to forage in fruiting cherry trees in structurally simple agroecosystems. This suggests that for systems where ecosystem function is mediated by highly mobile organisms, movement behaviour and distances are of considerable importance. Increases in movement distances with increasing human land-use intensity might also be common in other systems in which ecosystem function depends on mobile links.

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