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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Management effect on bird and arthropod interaction in suburban woodlands

Erik Heyman* and Bengt Gunnarsson

Author Affiliations

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Box 461, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

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BMC Ecology 2011, 11:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-11-8

Published: 1 March 2011



Experiments from a range of ecosystems have shown that insectivorous birds are important in controlling the populations of their invertebrate prey. Here, we report on a large field experiment testing the hypothesis that management for enhancing recreational values in suburban woodlands affects the intensity of bird predation on canopy-living arthropods. Bird exclosures were used in two types of management (understory clearance and dense understory) at two foraging heights in oak Quercus robur canopies and the experiment was replicated at two sites.


The biomass and abundance of arthropods were high on net-enclosed branches but strongly reduced on control branches in both types of management. In woods with dense understory, the effect of bird predation on arthropod abundance was about twice as high as in woods with understory clearance. The effect of bird predation on arthropod biomass was not significantly affected by management.


Our data provide experimental evidence to support the idea that bird predation on arthropods can be affected by forest management. We suggest that the mechanism is twofold: reduction of bird abundance and shift of foraging behaviour. In urban woodlands, there may be a management trade-off between enhancing recreational values and promoting bird predation rates on arthropods.