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Land cover differentially affects abundance of common and rare birds

March 28, 2023

While rare species are vulnerable to global change, large declines in common species (i.e., those with large population sizes, large geographic distributions, and/or that are habitat generalists) also are of conservation concern. Understanding if and how commonness mediates species' responses to global change, including land cover change, can help guide conservation strategies. We explored avian population responses to land cover change along a gradient from common to rare species using avian data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and land cover data from the National Land Cover Database for the conterminous United States. Specifically, we used generalized linear mixed effects models to ask if species' commonness affected the relationship between land cover and counts, using the initial amount of and change in land cover surrounding each North American BBS route from 2001 to 2016. We quantified species' commonness as a continuous metric at the national scale using the logarithm (base 10) of each species' total count across all routes in the conterminous United States in 2001. For our focal 15-year period, we found that higher proportions of initial natural land cover favored (i.e., were correlated with higher) counts of rare but not common species. We also found that commonness mediated how change in human land cover, but not natural land cover, was associated with species' counts at the end of the study period. Increases in developed lands did not favor counts of any species. Increases in agriculture and declines in pasture favored counts of common but not rare species. Our findings show a signal of commonness in how species respond to a major dimension of global change. Evaluating how and why commonness mediates species' responses to land cover change can help managers design conservation portfolios that sustain the spectrum of common to rare species.

Publication Year 2023
Title Land cover differentially affects abundance of common and rare birds
DOI 10.1111/gcb.16700
Authors Kristin P. Davis, Paul C. Banko, Liba Pejchar
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Change Biology
Index ID 70247519
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center