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Using landscape ecology to test hypotheses about large-scale abundance patterns in migratory birds

January 1, 1996

The hypothesis that Neotropical migrant birds may be undergoing widespread declines due to land use activities on the breeding grounds has been examined primarily by synthesizing results from local studies. Growing concern for the cumulative influence of land use activities on ecological systems has heightened the need for large—scale studies to complement what has been observed at local scales. We investigated possible landscape effects on Neotropical migrant bird populations for the eastern United States by linking two large—scale inventories designed to monitor breeding—bird abundances and land use patterns. The null hypothesis of no relation between landscape structure and Neotropical migrant abundance was tested by correlating measures of landscape structure with bird abundance, while controlling for the geographic distance among samples. Neotropical migrants as a group were more sensitive to landscape structure than either temperate migrants or permanent residents. Neotropical migrants tended to be more abundant in landscapes with a greater proportion of forest and wetland habitats, fewer edge habitats, larger forest patches, and with forest habitats well dispersed throughout the scene. Permanent residents showed few correlations with landscape structure and temperate migrants were associated with habitat diversity and edge attributes rather than with the amount, size, and dispersion of forest habitats. The association between Neotropical migrant abundance and forest fragmentation differed among physiographic strata, suggesting that landscape context affects observed relations between bird abundance and landscape structure. Finally, associations between landscape structure and temporal trends in Neotropical migrant abundance were counter to those observed in space. Trends in Neotropical migrant abundance were negatively correlated with forest habitats. These results suggest that extrapolation of patterns observed in some landscapes is not likely to hold regionally, and that conservation policies must consider the variation in landscape structure associations observed among different types of bird species and in physiographic strata with varying land use histories.

Publication Year 1996
Title Using landscape ecology to test hypotheses about large-scale abundance patterns in migratory birds
DOI 10.2307/2265651
Authors Curtis H. Flather, John R. Sauer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology
Index ID 5223094
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center