Hawthorne Beyer

Fine-scale movement decisions of tropical forest birds in a fragmented landscape

Gillies, C.S., Beyer, H.L. and Cassady St. Clair, C. 2011. Fine-scale movement decisions of tropical forest birds in a fragmented landscape. Ecological Applications 21(3), 944-954.


The persistence of forest-dependent species in fragmented landscapes is fundamentally linked to the movement of individuals among subpopulations. The paths taken by dispersing individuals can be considered a series of steps built from individual route choices. Despite the importance of these fine-scale movement decisions, it has proved difficult to collect such data that reveal how forest birds move in novel landscapes. We collected unprecedented route information about the movement of translocated forest birds from two species in the highly fragmented tropical dry forest of Costa Rica. In this pasture-dominated landscape, forest remains in patches or riparian corridors, with lesser amounts of living fencerows and individual trees or “stepping stones.” We used step selection functions to quantify how route choice was influenced by these habitat elements. We found that the amount of risk these birds were willing to take by crossing open habitat was context dependent. The forest-specialist Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) exhibited stronger selection for forested routes when moving in novel landscapes distant from its territory relative to locations closer to its territory. It also selected forested routes when its step originated in forest habitat. It preferred steps ending in stepping stones when the available routes had little forest cover, but avoided them when routes had greater forest cover. The forest-generalist Rufous-naped Wren (Campylorhynchus rufinucha) preferred steps that contained more pasture, but only when starting from non-forest habitats. Our results showed that forested corridors (i.e., riparian corridors) best facilitated the movement of a sensitive forest specialist through this fragmented landscape. They also suggested that stepping stones can be important in highly fragmented forests with little remaining forest cover. We expect that naturally dispersing birds and species with greater forest dependence would exhibit even stronger selection for forested routes than did the birds in our experiments.

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Australian Research Council DECRA Research Fellow

Email: hawthorne -at- spatialecology.com or h.beyer -at- uq.edu.au


ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions &

Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science &

Environmental Decisions Group,

School of Biological Sciences, Goddard Building

University of Queensland

Brisbane, Queensland 4072 Australia