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Landscape Context Mediates Avian Habitat Choice in Tropical Forest Restoration

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Birds both promote and prosper from forest restoration. The ecosystem functions birds perform can increase the pace of forest regeneration and, correspondingly, increase the available habitat for birds and other forest-dependent species. The aim of this study was to learn how tropical forest restoration treatments interact with landscape tree cover to affect the structure and composition of a diverse bird assemblage. We sampled bird communities over two years in 13 restoration sites and two old-growth forests in southern Costa Rica. Restoration sites were established on degraded farmlands in a variety of landscape contexts, and each included a 0.25-ha plantation, island treatment (trees planted in patches), and unplanted control. We analyzed four attributes of bird communities including frugivore abundance, nectarivore abundance, migrant insectivore richness, and compositional similarity of bird communities in restoration plots to bird communities in old-growth forests. All four bird community variables were greater in plantations and/or islands than in control treatments. Frugivore and nectarivore abundance decreased with increasing tree cover in the landscape surrounding restoration plots, whereas compositional similarity to old-growth forests was greatest in plantations embedded in landscapes with high tree cover. Migrant insectivore richness was unaffected by landscape tree cover. Our results agree with previous studies showing that increasing levels of investment in active restoration are positively related to bird richness and abundance, but differences in the effects of landscape tree cover on foraging guilds and community composition suggest that trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and bird-mediated ecosystem functioning may be important for prioritizing restoration sites.

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