Habitat specialists, such as forest raptors, are generally more likely to suffer from the impacts of large-scale forestry. One of the most characteristic and controversial aspects of many industrial plantation systems is the use of clearcutting as a harvesting method, which generates a mosaic of highly contrasting land cover types, such as wooded areas adjacent to zones practically devoid of vegetation. We explored the effect of forest cover on the abundance of habitat-generalist and forest-specialist raptors in South-central Chile. During the 2016 to 2018 breeding seasons, we conducted 584 playback surveys at 149 sampling points centred on 3×3km plots within 9×9km squares. The Rufous-legged Owl Strix rufipes, a forest specialist, showed a positive relationship with forest cover at the local scale. However, we found no significant relationships for other forest specialists in this study. Most habitat-generalist species showed a negative or non-linear relationship with forest cover, with greater species abundances observed in landscapes with intermediate levels of forest and open areas. Interestingly, the models with the highest statistical support included total forest cover (native forest + plantations) as a predictor, suggesting that the habitat-generalist species did not significantly discriminate between natural and artificial forests. Our results show that both generalist and forest-specialist raptors can use landscapes dominated by exotic plantations in South-central Chile.—Santander, F., Alvarado O., S. & Estades, C.F. (2021). Effect of forest cover on raptor abundance in exotic forest plantations in Chile. Ardeola, 68: 391-408.
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Vol. 68 • No. 2