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How well do route survey areas represent landscapes at larger spatial extents? An analysis of land cover composition along Breeding Bird Survey routes

August 1, 2017

The occurrence of birds in a survey unit is partly determined by the habitat present. Moreover, some bird species preferentially avoid some land cover types and are attracted to others. As such, land cover composition within the 400 m survey areas along a Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route clearly influences the species available to be detected. Ideally, to extend survey results to the larger landscape, land cover composition within the survey area should be similar to that at larger spatial extents defining the landscape. Such representativeness helps minimize possible roadside effects (bias), here defined as differences in bird species composition and abundance along a roadside as compared to a larger surrounding landscape. We used land cover data from the 2011 National Land Cover Database to examine representativeness of land cover composition along routes. Using ArcGIS, the percentages of each of 15 land cover types within 400 m buffers along 2,696 U.S. BBS routes were calculated and compared to percentages in 2 km, 5 km, and 10 km buffers surrounding each route. This assessment revealed that aquatic cover types and highly urbanized land tend to be slightly underrepresented in the survey areas. Two anthropogenic cover types (pasture/hay and cropland) may be slightly overrepresented in the survey areas. Over all cover types, 92% of the 2,696 routes exhibited “good” representativeness, with <5 percentage points per cover type difference in proportional cover between the 400 m and 10 km buffers. This assessment further supports previous research indicating that any land-cover-based roadside bias in the bird data of the BBS is likely minimal.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title How well do route survey areas represent landscapes at larger spatial extents? An analysis of land cover composition along Breeding Bird Survey routes
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-17-15.1
Authors Joseph A. Veech, Keith L. Pardieck, David Ziolkowski
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Index ID 70189990
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center