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Evidence for the buffer effect operating in multiple species at a national scale

Sullivan, MJP and Newson, SE and Pearce-Higgins, JW (2015) Evidence for the buffer effect operating in multiple species at a national scale. Biology Letters, 11 (1). ISSN 1744-9561

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Abstract

© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. A long-standing aim of ecologists is to understand the processes involved in regulating populations. One such mechanism is the buffer effect, where lower quality habitats are increasingly used as a species reaches higher population densities, with a resultant average reduction in fecundity and survival limiting population growth. Although the buffer effect has been demonstrated in populations of a number of species, a test of its importance in influencing population growth rates of multiple species across large spatial scales is lacking. Here, we use habitat-specific population trends for 85 bird species from long-term national monitoring data (the UK Breeding Bird Survey) to examine its generality. We find that both patterns of population change and changes in habitat preference are consistent with the predictions of the buffer effect, providing support for its widespread operation.

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