Effects of competition on great and blue tit reproduction: intensity and importance in relation to habitat quality
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
The journal of animal ecology / British Ecological Society. - Oxford
, p. 257-265
University of Antwerp
1. In studies on the effect of competition in plant communities two terms are used to describe its effects: the absolute reduction in growth of an individual as a consequence of the presence of another one is called intensity, while the relative impact of competition on an individual as a proportion of the impact of the whole environment is called importance. One school of thought is that the role of competition remains constant across productivity gradients, while the other is that it decreases with increasing severity. J.B. Grace (1991. A clarification of the debate between grime and tilman. Functional Ecology, 5, 583587.) suggested that the apparent contradiction might be solved if we acknowledge that the two schools are discussing different aspects of competition: the intensity of competition might remain constant while its importance declines with increasing severity. 2. There are no studies that compare intensity and importance of competition in bird populations between areas that differ in quality or productivity and hence it is not possible to make predictions how intensity or importance of competition would vary between them. 3. I compared variation in intensity and importance of competition of three demographic variables between five plots that differ strongly in quality for great Parus major L. and blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus (L.). 4. Both intensity and importance of competition are larger in great than in blue tit populations meaning that the effect of competition on demographic variables is stronger in great than in blue tits and that the contribution of competition to variation in these variables is relatively higher in great than in blue tits. 5. Intensity of competition is higher in low quality than in high quality plots for both species, a result not expected from studies in plant communities. 6. Importance of competition varies strongly between plots. It is larger in oak-dominated plots than in mixed deciduous plots. 7. In birds breeding density increases with habitat quality but is limited by territorial behaviour. As a result competition for food is reduced in high quality habitats resulting in a reduction of competition intensity in high quality sites in which birds breed at high densities. 8. It can be predicted that in studies of territorial species density dependent effects on reproduction are more likely to be detected in low quality sites explaining in part differences in results between studies.