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PLoS One. 2015 Jan 23;10(1):e0116745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116745. eCollection 2015.

High density of tree-cavities and snags in tropical dry forest of western Mexico raises questions for a latitudinal gradient.

Author information

1
Posgrado en Ciencia Biológicas, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico.
2
Estación de Biología Chamela, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, San Patricio-Melaque, Jalisco, Mexico.

Abstract

It has been suggested that a latitudinal gradient exists of a low density of snags and high density of naturally-formed tree-cavities in tropical vs. temperate forests, though few cavities may have characteristics suitable for nesting by birds. We determined snag and cavity density, characteristics, and suitability for birds in a tropical dry forest biome of western Mexico, and evaluated whether our data fits the trend of snag and cavity density typically found in tropical moist and wet forests. We established five 0.25-ha transects to survey and measure tree-cavities and snags in each of three vegetation types of deciduous, semi-deciduous, and mono-dominant Piranhea mexicana forest, comprising a total of 3.75 ha. We found a high density of 77 cavities/ha, with 37 cavities suitable for birds/ha, where density, and characteristics of cavities varied significantly among vegetation types. Lowest abundance of cavities occurred in deciduous forest, and these were in smaller trees, at a lower height, and with a narrower entrance diameter. Only 8.6% of cavities were excavated by woodpeckers, and only 11% of cavities were occupied, mainly by arthropods, though 52% of all cavities were unsuitable for birds. We also found a high density of 56 snags/ha, with greatest density in deciduous forest (70 snags/ha), though these were of significantly smaller diameter, and snags of larger diameter were more likely to contain cavities. The Chamela-Cuixmala tropical dry forest had the highest density of snags recorded for any tropical or temperate forest, and while snag density was significantly correlated with mean snag dbh, neither latitude nor mean dbh predicted snag density in ten forest sites. The high spatial aggregation of snag and cavity resources in tropical dry forest may limit their availability, particularly for large-bodied cavity adopters, and highlights the importance of habitat heterogeneity in providing resources for primary and secondary cavity-nesters.

PMID:
25615612
PMCID:
PMC4304802
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0116745
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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