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Landscape homogenization due to agricultural intensification disrupts the relationship between reproductive success and main prey abundance in an avian predator

Abstract : Background: Selecting high-quality habitat and the optimal time to reproduce can increase individual fitness and is a strong evolutionary factor shaping animal populations. However, few studies have investigated the interplay between land cover heterogeneity, limitation in food resources, individual quality and spatial variation in fitness parameters. Here, we explore how individuals of different quality respond to possible mismatches between a cue for prey availability (land cover heterogeneity) and the actual fluctuating prey abundance. Results: We analyse timing of breeding and reproductive success in a migratory population of Eurasian kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) breeding in nest-boxes, over a full three-year abundance cycle of main prey (voles), and consider several components of individual quality, including body condition, blood parasite infection, and genetic diversity (n = 448 adults) that act on different time scales. Older individuals, and kestrel parents in higher body condition started egg-laying earlier than younger birds and those in lower body condition. Additionally, egg-laying was initiated earlier during the increase and decrease phases (2011 and 2012) than during the low phase of the vole cycle (2013). Nestling survival (ratio of eggs that fledged successfully) was higher in early nests and in heterogeneous landscapes (i.e., mosaic of different habitat types), which was evident during the increase and decrease phases of the vole cycle, but not during the low vole year. Conclusions: We found a strong positive effect of landscape heterogeneity on nestling survival, but only when voles were relatively abundant, whereas a difference in the timing of breeding related to territory landscape heterogeneity was not evident. Therefore, landscape heterogeneity appeared as the main driver of high reproductive performance under favourable food conditions. Our results show that landscape homogenization linked to agricultural intensification disrupts the expected positive effect of vole abundance on reproductive success of kestrels.
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Petra Sumasgutner, Julien Terraube, Aurélie Coulon, Alexandre Villers, Nayden Chakarov, et al.. Landscape homogenization due to agricultural intensification disrupts the relationship between reproductive success and main prey abundance in an avian predator. Frontiers in Zoology, BioMed Central, 2019, 16 (1), pp.31. ⟨10.1186/s12983-019-0331-z⟩. ⟨mnhn-02934340⟩

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