Influence of habitat quality, population size, patch size, and connectivity on patch-occupancy dynamics of the middle spotted woodpecker
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. - Boston, Mass., 1987, currens
, p. 284-293
University of Antwerp
Despite extensive research on the effects of habitat fragmentation, the ecological mechanisms underlying colonization and extinction processes are poorly known, but knowledge of these mechanisms is essential to understanding the distribution and persistence of populations in fragmented habitats. We examined these mechanisms through multiseason occupancy models that elucidated patch-occupancy dynamics of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos medius) in northwestern Spain. The number of occupied patches was relatively stable from 2000 to 2010 (1524% of 101 patches occupied every year) because extinction was balanced by recolonization. Larger and higher quality patches (i.e., higher density of oaks >37 cm dbh [diameter at breast height]) were more likely to be occupied. Habitat quality (i.e., density of large oaks) explained more variation in patch colonization and extinction than did patch size and connectivity, which were both weakly associated with probabilities of turnover. Patches of higher quality were more likely to be colonized than patches of lower quality. Populations in high-quality patches were less likely to become extinct. In addition, extinction in a patch was strongly associated with local population size but not with patch size, which means the latter may not be a good surrogate of population size in assessments of extinction probability. Our results suggest that habitat quality may be a primary driver of patch-occupancy dynamics and may increase the accuracy of models of population survival. We encourage comparisons of competing models that assess occupancy, colonization, and extinction probabilities in a single analytical framework (e.g., dynamic occupancy models) so as to shed light on the association of habitat quality and patch geometry with colonization and extinction processes in different settings and species.