Native plantations as an important element for biodiversity in vanishing forested landscapes: a study of the near threatened araucaria tit spinetail (Leptasthenura setaria, Furnariidae).
Although forest loss is still a problem worldwide, estimated rates of deforestation have declined in the last decade, primarily because of an increase in the area of tree plantations. This leads to the central question of how suitable plantations are for indigenous species. Native plantations are thought to have higher value for biodiversity than plantations of non-native trees; however, not all studies support this view. We assessed occupancy and density of the araucaria tit spinetail (Leptasthenura setaria, Furnariidae), a near threatened species, in the highly endangered araucaria forests of north-eastern Argentina and in araucaria plantations, which comprise 90% of the remaining habitat for this species. All natural forest remnants were occupied by araucaria tit spinetails. Only 85% of the plantations were occupied; however, density was almost threefold higher in plantations compared with natural forests. Our models indicated that stand age was the most important factor in determining occupancy and density of this bird species in plantations. Plantations <10 years old exhibited lower densities than older plantations. This species does not occur in plantations of non-native trees, but our results indicate that native plantations may provide important habitat for the araucaria tit spinetail, particularly given that most native forest has been removed. Restoration of natural remnants and conservation of old, connected plantations may assure the protection of significant populations of spinetails. The role of native araucaria plantations as habitat for other species merits further examination.