K-State professor studies how landscape dynamics affect extinction risk for migratory songbirds

But research by a Kansas State University biology professor on how chronic habitat loss increases the extinction risk of migratory songbirds may provide some insight about how other animals might respond to a similar loss of habitat. The research, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency's Wildlife Risk Assessment Program, is chronicled in a recent issue of the journal, Ecological Applications.

Kimberly With, an associate professor in K-State's Division of Biology, along with two colleagues, developed a landscape-based population model to evaluate extinction risk for several types of migratory songbirds that breed in the temperate forests and grasslands of the United States. After breeding there, the birds then migrate south to spend the winter months in Central and South America.

With's research objective was to assess how chronic habitat loss can impact extinction risk for migratory songbirds. With said habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide.

"This is an issue that affects many different types of systems, not just here in the United States, but globally as well," With said. "Migratory songbirds are a group of particular concern, especially in North America."

With said a majority of songbirds in the United States are in reality "neotropical migrants," ones that spend only four or five months in this country. The majority of their life is spent in Central or South America. Because the birds breed in habitats throughout North America, however, it is important to understand how the widespread destruction, degradation and fragmentation of that habitat -- which involves not just losing habitat, but isolating the remaining habitat fragments -- affects the breeding success of these species.

The researchers used computer-generated songbirds that possessed characteristics similar to the types of species that might be found in nature.

"We then generated differ

Contact: Kimberly A. With
Kansas State University

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