Habitat fragmentation may modify ecological patterns by increasing the importance of edge effects, including elevating rates of predation on avian nests. Conventional wisdom suggests an increased rate of predation along habitat edges, and previous reviews support this view. These reviews did not apply recent statistical approaches, however, and some were based on a small number of studies. In our meta-analysis of 64 nest-predation experiments, our results supported prior reviews of the general pattern of increased nest predation along habitat edges (p < 0.01). We separated studies into ecologically relevant categories and found the following patterns: (1) Edge effects were more pronounced in North America and northwestern Europe than in central Europe or Central America. This result may be biased, however, by the different habitats studied in the regions. (2) Marshes and deciduous forests had significant edge effects, whereas edge effects were not apparent in coniferous forests, tropical forests, or fields. (3) Ground and natural nest studies were more likely to exhibit edge effects. (4) Edge effects were detected in studies that used quail eggs and real eggs. (5) Edge effects were not significant when artificial nests were exposed for typical incubation periods, but were significant for shorter exposures. Three alternative hypotheses may explain increased nest predation along edges. The edge-effects hypothesis states that increased nest losses along edges are the result of the habitat discontinuity. The landscape-structure hypothesis states that more fragmented landscapes are more heavily depredated by nest predators. The human-disturbance hypothesis states that near anthropogenic edges increased nest predation is related to human activities. Nest-predation experiments should be placed in a landscape context to reveal differences between the hypotheses.
Batáry P., Báldi A.: Evidence of an edge effect on avian nest success
Batáry, P. & Báldi, A.
Evidence of an edge effect on avian nest success: a meta-analysis.
Conservation Biology 18: 389–400.