The homogenizing influence of agriculture on forest bird communities at landscape scales

  • Sarah Endenburg
  • Greg W. Mitchell
  • Patrick Kirby
  • Lenore Fahrig
  • Jon Pasher
  • Scott WilsonEmail author
Research Article



Agricultural expansion is a principal driver of biodiversity loss, but the impacts on community assembly in agro-ecosystems are less clear, especially across regional scales at which agricultural policies are applied.


Using forest-breeding birds, we (1) tested whether increased agricultural coverage resulted in species communities that were random or more similar than expected, (2) compared the relative influence of agriculture versus distance in structuring communities, and (3) tested whether different responses to agriculture among functional guilds leads to a change in functional diversity across gradients of agriculture.


Species abundances were sampled along 229 transects, each 8 km, using citizen science data assembled across a broad region of eastern Canada. Agricultural and natural land cover were each summed within three different-sized buffers (landscapes) around each transect. A null modeling approach was used to measure community similarity.


Communities were most similar between landscapes that had high agricultural coverage and became more dissimilar as their respective landscapes differed more strongly in the amount of agriculture. Community dissimilarity increased with geographic distance up to about 200 km. Dissimilarity with increasing agriculture was largely due to the disappearance of Neotropical migrants, insectivores and foliage-gleaners from the community as agriculture increased. Functional diversity declined with increasing agriculture but less strongly than species richness and only when agriculture exceeded 40% of the landscape.


Our results support the hypothesis that increasing agricultural coverage produces a filtering towards communities of agriculture-tolerant forest birds with a loss of functional diversity and high site-to-site community similarity.


Agricultural intensification Beta diversity Biodiversity Bird Functional loss Guild Landscape context Spatial scale Turnover 


Supplementary material

10980_2019_895_MOESM1_ESM.docx (92 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Wildlife Research Division, Environment and Climate Change CanadaNational Wildlife Research CentreOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Landscape Science and Technology Division, Environment and Climate Change CanadaNational Wildlife Research CentreOttawaCanada

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