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Reconstructed Dynamics of Rapid Extinctions of Chaparral-Requiring Birds in Urban Habitat Islands

abstract1 (full description below): Conservation Biology. Volume 2, No. 1. March 1988. pp. 75-92.
Reconstructed Dynamics. PDF/Acrobat file  

Abstract: The distribution of native, chaparral-requiring bird species was determined for 37 isolated fragments of canyon habitat ranging in size from 0.4 to 104 hectares in coastal, urban San Diego County, California.

The area of chaparral habitat and canyon age (time since isolation of the habitat fragment) explains most of the variation in the number of chaparral-requiring bird species. In addition, the distribution of native predators may influence species number.

There is statistical evidence that coyotes control the populations of smaller predators such as foxes and domestic cats. The absence of coyotes may lead to higher levels of predation by a process of mesopredator release.

The distance of canyons from other patches of chaparral habitat does not add significantly to the explained variance in chaparral requiring species number-probably because of the virtual inability of most chaparral-requiring species to disperse through developed areas and nonscrub habitats.

These results and other lines of evidence suggest that chaparral requiring birds in isolated canyons have very high rates of extinction, in part because of their low vagility.

The best predictors of vulnerability of the individual species are their abundances (densities) in undisturbed habitat and their body sizes; together these two variables account for 95 percent of the variation in canyon occupancy.

A hypothesis is proposed to account for the similarity between the steep slopes of species-area curves for chaparral-requiring birds and the slopes for some forest birds on small islands or in habitat fragments.

The provision of corridors appears to be the most effective design and planning feature for preventing the elimination of chaparral-requiring species in a fragmented landscape.