Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 455–468 | Cite as

Gap Crossing Decisions by Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus Scirpaceus) in Agricultural Landscapes

Research Article


To meet the need for research on the requirements for corridors for marshland birds, this study set out to quantify gap crossing decisions made by reed warblers moving through the landscape. In three experiments, reed warblers were released into landscape situations with different gap sizes and their movement towards reed patches fringing a watercourse were monitored. In all experiments, most birds flew over the smallest gap towards the nearest reed patch. In the experiment with two gap sizes, the probability of crossing a gap was a function of the ratio between distances to the reed patches. In the experiment with increasing gap sizes, most birds crossed the smaller gaps frequently. Near the bigger gaps, birds did not cross the gaps; instead, they only crossed the watercourse repeatedly. In the third experiment with more realistic landscape configurations, the birds preferred nearby non-reed landscape elements to more distant reed patches. It is concluded that reed warblers were reluctant to cross gaps wider than 50 m. The results suggest that the presence and size of gaps in reed patches affect reed warblers’ local gap-crossing decisions: when given a choice, the birds prefer to cross the smallest gap. Furthermore, reed warblers may be directed towards suitable marshlands by creating corridors of reed vegetation with gaps no wider than 50 m. The surrounding agricultural landscape and the presence of trees and ditches could decrease the reluctance to cross gaps in corridors.


Barriers Birds Connectivity Corridors Fragmentation Movement Radio telemetry Translocation experiment 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andreassen, H.P., Ims, R.A., Steinset, O.K. 1996Discontinuous habitat corridors: effect on male root vole movementsJ. Appl. Ecol.33555560Google Scholar
  2. Beier, P. 1995Dispersal of juvenile cougars in fragmented habitatJ. Wildlife Manage.59228237Google Scholar
  3. Beier, P., Noss, R.F. 1998Do habitat corridors provide connectivity? ReviewConserv. Biol.1212411252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bélisle, M., St. Clair, C.C. 2001Cumulative effects of barriers on the movements of forest birdsConserv. Ecol.59Google Scholar
  5. Bélisle, M., Desrochers, A., Fortin, M.J. 2001Influence of forest cover on the movements of forest birds: a homing experimentEcol. Washington, DC8218931904Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, A.F. 1999Linkages in the landscape: the role of corridors and connectivity in Wildlife conservationThe World Conservation Union (IUCN) Forest Conservation ProgrammeGlandSwitzerland and CambridgeUnited KingdomGoogle Scholar
  7. Bensch, S., Hasselquist, D. 1991Territory infidelity in the polygynous great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus: the effect of variation in territory attractivenessJ. Anim. Ecol.60857871Google Scholar
  8. Borowiec, M. 1992Breeding ethology and ecology of Reed WarblerAcrocephalus scirpaceus at Milicz, SW PolandActa Zool. Cracov35315350Google Scholar
  9. Bowne, D.R., Peles, J.D., Barret, G.W. 1999Effects of landscape spatial structure on movement patterns of the hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus)Landscape Ecol.145365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conradt, L., Bodsworth, E.J., Roper, T.J., Thomas, C.D. 2000Non-random dispersal in the butterfly Maniola jurtina: implications for metapopulation modelsProc. R. Soc. Lond. B26715051570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DenBoer, T. 2000Beschermingsplan moerasvogels 2000–2004Rapport directie natuurbeheer nr. 47Wageningen183(in Dutch).Google Scholar
  12. Desrochers, A., Hannon, S.J. 1997Gap crossing decisions by forest songbirds during the post-fledging periodConserv. Biol.1112041210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fischer, S., Haupt, H. 1994Settling patterns and movements of East-German Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – an analysis of ringing recoveries of the Hiddensee birdringing stationVogelwarte37183189Google Scholar
  14. Foppen, R.P.B., Chardon, J.P., Liefveld, W. 2000Understanding the role of sink patches in source-sink metapopulations: reed warblers in an agricultural landscapeConserv. Biol.1418811892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gobeil, J.-F., Villard, M.-A. 2002Permeability of three boreal forest landscape types to bird movements as determined from experimental translocationsOikos98447458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Graveland, J. 1998Reed die-back, water level management and the decline of the Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) in the NetherlandsArdea86187201Google Scholar
  17. Greenwood, P.J., Harvey, P.H. 1982The natal and breeding dispersal of birdsAnnu. Rev. Ecol. Systemat.13121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haas, C.A. 1995Dispersal and use of corridors by birds in wooded patches on an agricultural landscapeConserv. Biol.9845854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haddad, N.M. 1999Corridor and distance effects on interpatch movements: a landscape experiment with butterfliesEcol. Appl.9612622Google Scholar
  20. Haddad, N. 2000Corridor length and patch colonization by a butterfly, Junonia coeniaConserv. Biol.14738745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanski, I. 1994A practical model of metapopulation dynamicsJ. Anim. Ecol.63151162Google Scholar
  22. Harrison, S., Taylor, A.D. 1997Migration within metapopulations, the impact upon local population dynamicsHansi, Gilpin,  eds. Metapopulation Biology; Ecology, Genetics, and EvolutionAcademic PressSan DiegoGoogle Scholar
  23. Inglis, G., Underwood, A.J. 1992Comments on some designs proposed for experiments on the biological importance of corridorsConserv. Biol.6581586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leerdam A. van and Vermeer J.G. 1992. Natuur uit het moeras! Naar een duurzame ecologische ontwikkeling in laagveenmoerassen. LNV.Google Scholar
  25. Levins, R. 1970ExtinctionsGerstenhaber,  eds. Some Mathematical Questions in Biology. Lectures on Mathematics in the Life Sciences, vol. 2The American Mathematical SocietyProvidenceRI77107Google Scholar
  26. Lima, S.L., Zollner, P.A. 1996Towards a behavioral ecology of ecological landscapesTrends Ecol. Evol.11131134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MacDonald D.W. and Johnson D.P. 2001. Dispersal in theory and practice consequences for conservation biology. In: Clobert J., Danchin E., Dhondt A.A. and Nichols J.D. (eds), Dispersal. Oxford University Press, pp. 358-372.Google Scholar
  28. Machtans, C.S., Villard, M.-A., Hannon, S.J. 1996Use of riparian buffer strips as movement corridors by forest birdsConserv. Biol.1013661379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mansergh, I.M., Scotts, D.J. 1989Habitat continuity and social organization of the mountain pygmy-possum restored by tunnelJ. Wild. Manage.53701707Google Scholar
  30. Mauritzen, M., Bergers, P.J.M., Andreassen, H.P., Bussink, H., Barendse, R. 1999Root vole movement patterns: do ditches function as habitat corridors?J. Appl. Ecol.36215222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McCullagh, P., Nelder, J.A. 1989Generalized Linear Models2Chapman and HallLondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Merriam, G., Lanuoue, A. 1990Corridor use by small mammals: field measurements for three experimental types of Peromyscus leucopusLandscape Ecol.4123131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morton, M.L., Wakamatsu, M.W., Pereyra, M.E., Morton, G.A. 1991Postfledging dispersal, habitat inprinting and philopatry in a montanemigratory sparrowOrnis Scand.2298106Google Scholar
  34. Noordwijk, A.J.V. 1995On bias due to observer distribution in the analysis of data on natal dispersal in birdsJ. Appl. Stat.22683694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. NPP1990Nature Policy Plan. Ministry of AgricultureNature Conservation and FisheriesSDUThe Hague (in Dutch)Google Scholar
  36. NPP2000Nature Policy Plan: Nature for PeoplePeople for NatureMinistry of AgricultureNature Conservation and Fisheries SDUThe Hague (in Dutch)Google Scholar
  37. Opdam, P. 1990Dispersal in fragmented populations: the key to survivalBunce, R.G.H.Howards, D.C. eds. Species Dispersal in Agricultural HabitatsBelhaven PressLondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Opdam, P. 1991Metapopulation theory and habitat fragmentation: a review of holarctic breeding bird studiesLandscape Ecol.593106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Opdam, P., Foppen, R., Vos, C.C. 2002Bridging the gap between ecology and spatial planning in landscape ecologyLandscape Ecol.16767779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Osieck E.R. and Hustings F. 1994. Rode lijst van bedreigde soorten en blauwe lijst van belangrijke soorten in Nederland. Technisch rapport Vogelbescherming Nederland 12. Vogebescherming Nederland, Zeist (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  41. Paradis, E., Baillie, S.R., Sutherland, W.J., Gregory, R.D. 1998Patterns of natal and breeding dispersal in birdsJ. Anim. Ecol.67518536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pither, J., Taylor, P.D. 1998An experimental assessment of landscape connectivityOikos83166174Google Scholar
  43. Ruckelshaus, M., Hartway, C., Kareiva, P. 1997Assessing the data requirements of spatially explicit dispersal modelsConserv. Biol.1112981306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rüfenacht, B., Knight, R.L. 1995Influences of corridor continuity and width on survival and movement of deermice Peromyscus maniculatusBiol. Conserv.71269274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Saunders D.A. and de Rebeira C.P. 1991. Values of corridors to avian populations in a fragmented landscape. In: Saunders D.A. and Hobbs R.J. (eds), Nature Conservation 2: the Role of Corridors.Google Scholar
  46. Sutcliffe, O.L., Thomas, C.D. 1996Open corridors appear to facilitate dispersal by Ringlet Butterflies (Aphantopus hyperantus) between woodland clearingsConserv. Biol.1013591365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Vos, C.C. 1999A frog's-eye view of the landscapeWageningen University and DLO Institute for Forestry and Nature ResearchWageningen, the NetherlandsPh.D. Dissertation.Google Scholar
  48. Vos, C.C., Verboom, J., Opdam, P.F.M., TerBraak, C.J.F. 2001Towards ecologically scaled landscape indicesAm. Nat.1572441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vos C.C., Baveco J.M. and Grashof-Bokdam C. 2002. Corridors and species dispersal. In: Gutzwiller K.J. (eds), In Applications in Landscape Ecology. Springer, pp. 84–104.Google Scholar
  50. Wauters, L., Casale, P., Dhondt, A. 1994Space use and dispersal of red squirrels in fragmented habitatsOikos69140146Google Scholar
  51. Wegner, J.F., Merriam, G. 1979Movements by birds and small mammals between a wood and adjoining farmland habitatsJ. Appl. Ecol.16349357Google Scholar
  52. White, G.C., Garrot, R.A. 1990Analysis of Wildlife Radio-tracking DataAcademic Press Inc.San DiegoCAGoogle Scholar
  53. Wiens, J.A. 2001The landscape context of dispersalClobert, J.E.Danchin, A.A.Dhondt, Nichols, J.D. eds. DispersalOxford University PressUSA96109Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alterra Green World ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Plant Ecology and Nature ConservationWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.BiometrisWageningen-URWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations