Mature non-native plantations complement native forests in bird communities: canopy and understory effects on avian habitat preferences.
The habitat composition of mature non-native plantations may provide a different set of resources to that of native forests, and these differences may influence species communities. We studied a bird community in the northern Iberian Peninsula to understand whether habitat composition in either mature non-native plantations or native forests generated differences in the habitat associations of each bird species as well as the composition of the bird community. We sampled 140 4-ha plots, measuring habitat composition at both the canopy and the understory level using remote sensing data and field surveys, respectively. Using a fixed census in each plot, we also studied the bird species composition and analysed the species-specific associations for various habitat variables at the canopy and understory level. We found that mature plantations differed in understory level from native forest, but these differences in habitat did not translate into differences in bird species composition between forest types. Species-habitat associations were on average stronger at the understory compared to the canopy level, which suggests that a combination of field and remote sensing data might better represent the species-specific response to forest resources when measuring the assembly of bird communities in mature plantations. This work suggests the fact that the combination of different levels of forest resources, such as that provided by mature non-native plantations and native forests, is able to support a rich bird community.