pp 1–13 | Cite as

Do Breeding Bird Communities or Conservation Value Differ Among Forested Wetland Types or Ecoregions in Nova Scotia?

  • John BraznerEmail author
  • Laura Achenbach
Wetlands Conservation


Forested wetlands are being lost to development at a higher rate than other wetland types in Nova Scotia despite limited understanding about the ecology of these ecosystems. To examine differences in community composition or conservation value among forested wetland types (peatlands, treed and shrub swamps) or ecoregions (Western, Valley, Fundy Shore), we surveyed breeding birds at 229 sites in western Nova Scotia in 2015 and 2016. We observed 95 species (46% of Nova Scotia’s breeding bird species) and 8971 individuals across all sites. In addition, 5 of 13 (38%) inland (noncoastal) bird species that are listed as at-risk in Nova Scotia were detected. There were more distinct differences in communities among wetland types than ecoregions, shrub swamps and peatlands had significantly more species and higher mean abundances than treed swamps, and Valley Ecoregion sites had the highest species richness and abundance. We also found strong wetland type and ecoregion affinities for particular species. Our results indicate that shrub swamps, particularly in the Valley Ecoregion, have high conservation value and are acting as important refugia for birds in this highly-fragmented landscape. The conservation value of peatlands and treed swamps is also high, partly owing to the at-risk species they support.


Avian community Biodiversity Bog Fen Species at risk NMDS ordination 



We thank Duncan Bayne, Alix D’Entremont, Paul Gould, Krista Hilchey, Anne Lambert, Eric Mills, Chris Pepper, Carolyn Towell, David Simpson, Kate Steele and Rick Whitman for help with field work, and Frances MacKinnon and Emily Hale for help with GIS analyses. We are grateful to Mirabai Alexander, Sean Basquill, Peter Bush, Rob Cameron, James Churchill, Mark Elderkin, Randy Milton, Jerry Niemi and Glen Parsons for helpful reviews and discussions about this project, NSDLF Librarian, Tracy Lenfesty, for help locating many supporting references and Amy Marsters for manuscript preparation. The information in this document has been funded wholly by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry. It has been subjected to review by the Wildlife Division of NSDLF and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Department, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Supplementary material

13157_2019_1222_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 36 kb)
13157_2019_1222_MOESM2_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 32 kb)


  1. Alldredge MW, Simons TR, Pollock KH (2007) Factors affecting aural detections of songbirds. Ecol Appl 17:948–955. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson DS, Davis RB (1997) The vegetation and its environments in Maine peatlands. Can J Bot 75:1785–1805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey RG, Zoltai SC, Wiken EB (1985) Ecological regionalization in Canada and the United States. Geoforum 16:265–275. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bale SL (2017) Building an arc in the anthropocene: applying principles of environmental resilience to improve single-species conservation planning in an era of climate change. Thesis. Dalhousie UniversityGoogle Scholar
  5. Brazner JC, Danz NP, Trebitz AS et al (2007) Responsiveness of Great Lakes wetland indicators to human disturbances at multiple spatial scales: A multi-assemblage assessment Journal of Great Lakes Research. J Great Lakes Res 33(Spec. Iss. 3):42–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burivalova Z, Şekercioǧlu ÇH, Koh LP (2014) Thresholds of logging intensity to maintain tropical forest biodiversity. Curr Biol 24:1893–1898. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Calhoun A (1999) Forested wetlands. Managing Biodiversity in Forest Ecosystems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 300–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calme S, Desrochers A, Savard J-PL (2002) Regional signifcance of peatlands for avifaunal diversity in southern Quebec. Biol Conserv 107:273–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cameron R (2009) Red maple, Acer rubrum, wetland composition and structure in Nova Scotia. Canadian Field-Naturalist 123:221–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke KR (1993) Non-parametric multivaritate analyses of changes in community structure. Aust J Ecol 18:117–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Comeau PL, Bellamy DJ (1986) An ecological interpretation of the chemistry of mire waters from selected sites in eastern Canada. Can J Bot 64:2576–2581. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dahl TE (2011) Status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous United States 2004 to 2009. U.S. Department of the Interior; Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  13. Dahl TE, Zoltai SC (1997) Forested northern wetlands of North America. In: Trettin CC, Jurgensen MF, Grigal DF, Gale MR, Jeglum JK (eds) Northern forested wetlands: ecology and management. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, pp 3–17Google Scholar
  14. Damman AWH, Dowhan JJ (1981) Vegetation and habitat conditions in Western Head Bog, a southern Nova Scotian plateau bog. Can J Bot 59:1343–1359. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Darlington-Moore S (2014) Species distribution models for eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens) in Kejimkujik National Park and Nova Scotia. Thesis. Dalhousie UniversityGoogle Scholar
  16. Davidson NC (2014) How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area. Mar Freshw Res 65:934–941. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diamond JS, McLaughlin D, Slesak R et al (2018) Forested versus herbaceous wetlands: can management mitigate ecohydrologic regime shifts from invasive emerald ash borer? J Environ Manag 222:436–446. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dodds WK (2002) Freshwater ecology: concepts and environmental applications. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  19. Ducks Unlimited Canada (2010). Southern Ontario wetland conversion analysis. Duck Unlimited Canada Final Report, Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Available via
  20. Dufrêne M, Legendre P (1997) Species assemblages and indicator species: a need for flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecol Monogr 67:345–366.[0345:SAAIST]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dunn EH, Bart J, Collins BT, et al (2006) Monitoring bird populations in small geographic areas. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Available via
  22. Erskine AJ (1977) Birds in boreal Canada: communities, densities and adaptations. Canadian Wildlife Service, Report Series Number 41, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  23. Etterson MA, Niemi GJ, Danz NP (2009) Estimating the effects of detection heterogeneity and overdispersion on trends estimated from avian point counts. Ecol Appl 19:2049–2066PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Faith DP, Minchin PR, Belbin L (1987) Compositional dissimilarity as a robust measure of ecological distance. Vegetatio 69:57–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Farnsworth GL, Pollock KH, Nichols JD et al (2002) A removal model for estimating detection probabilities from point count surveys. Auk 119:414–425. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foote JR, Fitzsimmons LP, Lobert LM et al (2017) A population-level analysis of morning song: Exploring the implications for point counts. Canadian Field-Naturalist 131:10–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frelich LE (1995) Old forest in the Lake States today and before European settlement. Nat Areas J 15:157–167Google Scholar
  28. Golet FC, Calhoun AJK, DeRagon WR, et al (1993) Ecology of red maple swamps in the glaciated Northeast: A community profile. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 12, Washington, D.C. (United States)Google Scholar
  29. Hanowski JM, Niemi GJ. (1995) Experimental design considerations for establishing an off-road, habitat specific bird monitoring program using point counts. In: Ralph CJ, Sauer JR, Droege S (eds) Monitoring bird populations by point counts. Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-149, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Albany, CA pp 145–150Google Scholar
  30. Hanowski JA, Danz N, Howe R et al (2007) Consideration of geography and wetland geomorphic type in the development of Great Lakes coastal wetland bird indicators. EcoHealth 4:194–205. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hill NM, Garbary DJ (2011) Habitat may limit herb migration at the northern edge of the Appalachian deciduous forest. Botany 89:635–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hoffman RM, Mossman MJ (1993) Birds of Wisconsin’s northern swamps and bogs. Passenger Pigeon 55:113–138Google Scholar
  33. Howe RW, Niemi GJ, Lewis SJ, Welsh DA (1997) A standard method for monitoring songbird populations in the Great Lakes region. Passenger Pigeon 59:183–194Google Scholar
  34. Hunter ML (1999) Maintaining Biodiversity in Forest Ecosystems. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hutto RL (2016) Should scientists be required to use a model-based solution to adjust for possible distance-based detectability bias? Ecol Appl 26:1287–1294. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Inman RL, Prince HH, Hayes DB (2002) Avian communities in forested riparian wetlands of southern Michigan, USA. Wetlands 22:647–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jahncke R, Leblon B, Bush P, LaRocque A (2018) Mapping wetlands in Nova Scotia with multi-beam RADARSAT-2 Polarimetric SAR, optical satellite imagery, and Lidar data. Int J Appl Earth Obs Geoinf 68:139–156. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Johnson DH (2008) In defense of indices: the case of bird surveys. J Wildl Manag 72:857–868. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Keys K, Neily P, Quigley E, Stewart B (2007) Field manual for forest ecosystem classification in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Manual FOR 2007–1, Truro, Nova Scotia, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  40. Kirk DA, Diamond AW, Hobson KA, Smith AR (1996) Breeding bird communities of the western and northern Canadian boreal forest: relationship to forest type. Can J Zool 74:1749–1770. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. LaRue P, Bélanger L, Huot J (1995) Riparian edge effects on boreal balsam fir bird communities. Can J For Res 25:555–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lovette IJ, Fitzpatrick JW (2016) The Cornell Lab of ornithology: handbook of bird biology, 3rd edn. John Wiley and Sons, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  43. Lugo AE, Brown S, Brinson MM (1990) Concepts in wetland ecology. In: Lugo AE, Brinson MM, Brown S (eds) Ecosystems of the world 15. Elsevier Science Publishers Com, Amsterdam, pp 53–85Google Scholar
  44. MacArthur RH, MacArthur JW (1961) On bird species diversity. Ecology 42:594–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. MacArthur RH, MacArthur JW, Preer J (1962) On bird species diversity. II. Prediction of bird census from habitat measurements. Am Nat 96:167–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. MacDonnell K (2001) Getting rid of alders: 100 seasons of farm and country living. Rural Delivery Magazine, LiverpoolGoogle Scholar
  47. MacKenzie DI, Nichols JD, Royle JA, Pollock KH, Bailey LL, Hines JE (2006) Occupancy estimation and modeling: inferring patterns and dynamics of species occurrence. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Matthews E, Fung I (1987) Methane emission from natural wetlands: Global distribution, area, and environmental characteristics of sources. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 1:61–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McCune B, Grace JB (2002) Analysis of ecological communities. MjM Software Design, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  50. McCune B, Mefford MJ (2011) PC-ORD. Multivariate analysis of ecological data. Version 6.17. MjM Software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  51. McDonald R, McKnight M, Weiss D et al (2005) Species compositional similarity and ecoregions: Do ecoregion boundaries represent zones of high species turnover? Biol Conserv 126:24–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McKinney RA, Raposa KB, Cournoyer RM (2011) Wetlands as habitat in urbanizing landscapes: patterns of bird abundance and occupancy. Landsc Urban Plan 100:144–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Merrow JS (1990) The influence of area and habitat on the avian community in red maple swamps of southern Rhode Island. Thesis, University of Rhode Island, KingstonGoogle Scholar
  54. Mielke PW Jr, Berry KJ (2001) Permutation methods: a distance function approach. Springer Verlag, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moreno-Mateos D, Power ME, Comín FA, Yockteng R (2012) Structural and functional loss in restored wetland ecosystems. PLoS Biol. PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Morissette JL, Kardynal KJ, Bayne EM, Hobson KA (2013) Comparing bird community composition among boreal wetlands: Is wetland classification a missing piece of the habitat puzzle? Wetlands 33:653–665. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Morissette JL, Kardynal KJ, Bayne EM, Hobson KA (2018) Are Boreal Riparian Bird Communities Unique? Contrasting Riparian and Upland Bird Assemblages in the Boreal Plain of Western Canada. Wetlands. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. National Wetlands Working Group (1997) The Canadian wetland classification system, 2nd edn. Wetlands Research Centre, University of Waterloo, WaterlooGoogle Scholar
  59. Nichols JD, Hines JE, Sauer JR, Fallon FW, Fallon JE, Heglund PJ (2000) A double-observer approach for estimating detection probability and abundance from point counts. The Auk 117(2):393–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Niemi GJ, Hanowski JM (1984) Effects of a Transmission Line on Bird Populations in the Red Lake Peatland. The Auk 101:487–498. URL:
  61. Niemi GJ, Howe RW, Sturtevant BR, et al (2016) Analysis of Long-term Forest Bird Monitoring Data from National Forests of the Western Great Lakes Region. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, General Technical Report NRS-159, Newtown Square, PAGoogle Scholar
  62. Neily PD, Basquill S, Quigley E, Keys K (2017) Ecological land classification for Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Report DNR-2017-3, Renewable Resources Branch, Truro, Nova Scotia, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  63. Nova Scotia Environment (2011) The Nova Scotia Wetland Conservation Policy. Available via
  64. Odum EP (1950) Bird populations of the Highlands (North Carolina) Plateau in relation to plant succession and avian invasion. Ecology 31:587–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Olson DM, Dinerstein E, Wikramanayake ED et al (2001) Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933.[0933:TEOTWA]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Omernik JM (1987) Ecoregions of the conterminous United States. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 77:118–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Panjabi, A.O., Blancher, P.J., Easton, W.E., Stanton J.C., Demarest, D.W., Dettmers, V, and Rosenberg, K.V. 2017. The Partners in Flight handbook on species assessment. Partners in Flight Technical Series No. 3. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Available via
  68. Ralph CJ, Droege S, Sauer JR (1995) Managing and monitoring birds using point counts: standards and applications. In: Ralph CJ, Sauer JR, Droege S (eds) Monitoring bird populations by point counts. Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-149, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Albany, CA pp 161–168Google Scholar
  69. Remm L (2015) Impacts of forest drainage on biodiversity and habitat quality: implications for sustainable management and conservation. Dissertation, Tartu University, Tartu, Estonia. Available via
  70. Rheinhardt RD (2007) Hydrogeomorphic and compositional variation among red maple (Acer rubrum) wetlands in southeastern Massachusetts. Northeast Nat:589–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ricketts TH, Dinerstein E, Olson DM et al (1999) Terrestrial ecoregions of North America: a conservation assessment. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  72. Roca R, Adkins L, Wurschy MC, Skerl K (1996) Transboundary conservation: An ecoregional approach to protect neotropical migratory birds in South America. Environ Manag 20:849–863. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Roth RR (1976) Spatial heterogeneity and bird species diversity. Ecology 57:773–782. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Roy V, Ruel JC, Plamondon AP (2000) Establishment, growth and survival of natural regeneration after clearcutting and drainage on forested wetlands. For Ecol Manag 129:253–267. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sallabanks R, Walters JR, Collazo JA (2000) Breeding bird abundance in bottomland hardwood forests: habitat, edge, and patch size effects. Condor 102:748–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Smith KG (1977) Distribution of summer birds along a forest moisture gradient in an Ozark watershed. Ecology 58:810–819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Snell E (1987). Wetland distribution and conversion in Southern Ontario. Environment Canada, Inland Waters and Land Directorate, Working Paper No. 48, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  78. Stewart RLM, Bredin KA, Couturier AR, Chardine JW et al (2015) Second atlas of breeding birds of the Maritime Provinces. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island, Nature New Brunswick, New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, Nova Scotia Bird Society, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Forestry, SackvilleGoogle Scholar
  79. Swift BL, Larson JS, DeGraaf RM (1984) Relationship of breeding bird density and diversity to habitat variables in forested wetlands. The Wilson Bulletin 96:48–59. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tockner K, Stanford JA (2002) Riverine flood plains: present state and future trends. Biological Sciences Faculty Publications, Paper 166, University of Montana, Missoula, MT (United States) Available via CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Trettin CC, Jurgensen MF, Grigal DF et al (1997) Northern forested wetlands ecology and management. CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  82. Welsh DA, Lougheed SC (1996) Relationships of bird community structure and species distributions to two environmental gradients in the northern boreal forest. Ecography 19:194–208. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Westwood AR (2016) Conservation of three forest landbird species at risk: characterizing and modelling habitat at multiple scales to guide management planning. Dissertation, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Available via
  84. Wiken EB (1986) Terrestrial ecozones of Canada. Environment Canada, Ecological Land Classification Series No. 19, HullGoogle Scholar
  85. Williams M (2002) Deforesting the earth: from prehistory to global crisis, an abridgment. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  86. Wilson WH Jr, Zierzow RE, Savage AR (1998) Habitat selection by peatland birds in a central Maine bog: the effects of scale and year. Journal of Field Ornithology:540–548Google Scholar
  87. Yu S, Ehrenfeld JG (2010) Relationships among plants, soils and microbial communities along a hydrological gradient in the New Jersey Pinelands, USA. Ann Bot 105:185–196. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  88. Zlonis EJ, Niemi GJ (2014) Avian communities of managed and wilderness hemiboreal forests. For Ecol Manag 328:26–34. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Zlonis EJ, Bednar JD, Panci HG et al (2017) Habitats and landscapes associated with bird species in a lowland conifer-dominated ecosystem. Avian Conservation and Ecology 12(1):7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© UK Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Lands and Forestry – Wildlife DivisionKentvilleCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Wildlife ServiceEnvironment and Climate Change CanadaDartmouthCanada

Personalised recommendations