Background: Identifying persistence and extinction thresholds in species-habitat relationships is a major focal point of ecological research and conservation. However, one major concern regarding the incorporation of threshold analyses in conservation is the lack of knowledge on the generality and transferability of results across species and regions. We present a multi-region, multi-species approach of modeling threshold responses, which we use to investigate whether threshold effects are similar across species and regions.
Methodology/Principal Findings: We modeled local persistence and extinction dynamics of 25 forest-associated breeding birds based on detection/non-detection data, which were derived from repeated breeding bird atlases for the state of Vermont. We did not find threshold responses to be particularly well-supported, with 9 species supporting extinction thresholds and 5 supporting persistence thresholds. This contrasts with a previous study based on breeding bird atlas data from adjacent New York State, which showed that most species support persistence and extinction threshold models (15 and 22 of 25 study species respectively). In addition, species that supported a threshold model in both states had associated average threshold estimates of 61.41% (SE = 6.11, persistence) and 66.45% (SE = 9.15, extinction) in New York, compared to 51.08% (SE = 10.60, persistence) and 73.67% (SE = 5.70, extinction) in Vermont. Across species, thresholds were found at 19.45–87.96% forest cover for persistence and 50.82–91.02% for extinction dynamics.
Conclusions/Significance: Through an approach that allows for broad-scale comparisons of threshold responses, we show that species vary in their threshold responses with regard to habitat amount, and that differences between even nearby regions can be pronounced. We present both ecological and methodological factors that may contribute to the different model results, but propose that regardless of the reasons behind these differences, our results merit a warning that threshold values cannot simply be transferred across regions or interpreted as clear-cut targets for ecosystem management and conservation.