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Science. 2002 Nov 8;298(5596):1236-8.

Avian persistence in fragmented rainforest.

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Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium.


What factors determine the persistence of species in fragmented habitats? To address this question, we studied the relative impacts of forest deterioration and fragmentation on bird species in 12 rainforest fragments in Kenya, combining 6 years of individual capture-recapture data with measurements of current captures and museum specimens. Species mobility, as estimated from species-specific dispersal rates, and tolerance to habitat deterioration, as estimated from change in fluctuating asymmetry with increasing habitat disturbance, explained 88% of the variation in patch occupancy among eight forest bird species. Occupancy increased with mobility and with tolerance to deterioration, where both variables contributed equally to this relationship. We conclude that individual-level study, such as of dispersal behavior and phenotypic development, can predict patterns of persistence at the species level. More generally, for conservation tactics to stand a high chance of success, they should include action both within sites, to minimize habitat deterioration, and across landscapes, to maximize dispersal.

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