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Birds as marine–terrestrial linkages in sub-polar archipelagic systems: avian community composition, function and seasonal dynamics in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (54–55°S), Chile

Abstract

Marine environments are known to affect adjacent terrestrial biotic communities. In South America’s sub-Antarctic archipelago, birds are the most abundant and diverse terrestrial vertebrate assemblage. We hypothesized that birds would reflect a marine influence that would gradually decrease inland, expecting to find greater species richness, abundance, and biomass near the sea with decreases toward the island interior. We seasonally compared these parameters, with identified indicator species and assessed functional groups at 0, 150, and 300 m from the coast. Unexpectedly, we found a marked marine (0) and terrestrial (150–300) patterns for avian assemblages, rather than a gradient. In addition, seasonal patterns were warm (spring–summer) and cold (autumn–winter). The only parameter that displayed a true gradient was avian biomass in spring. During the cold season, higher values were observed in all variables for coastal assemblages, compared to inland sites. In the warm season, abundance and richness of coastal and terrestrial assemblages were similar, owing to migratory species. Milvago chimango was the only species abundant and frequent in both terrestrial and coastal systems, thereby indicating potential as a marine–terrestrial vector. Functionally, coastal assemblages were conformed of herbivores, carnivores, and scavengers, while terrestrial communities were made up of omnivores and insectivores. We conclude that the sea coast is a unique habitat in this archipelago, providing refuge for both marine and terrestrial sub-Antarctic birdlife particularly in the cold season. The relevance of the land/sea ecotone is poorly known, but important is given to high demand for the installation of salmon aquaculture facilities along the southern Chilean coastline.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the participation and support of numerous people in the design, collection and analysis of these data, especially the volunteers, staff and directors of the sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program (Universidad de Magallanes, Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and University of North Texas). JCP acknowledges his master’s scholarship from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and CONICYT through the Basal Financing Program (PFB-23) and the Millennium Scientific Initiative (P05-002) and the Rufford Small Grant Foundation, which helped finance the research as part of the project entitled Omora Bird Observatory: Long-Term Ornithological Studies and Conservation in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile (RSG 20.08.08). Birder’s Exchange also donated field equipment. This publication is a contribution to the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, which is a long-term socio-ecological research site (http://www.ieb-chile.cl/ltser) in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve.

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Correspondence to J. C. Pizarro.

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Pizarro, J.C., Anderson, C.B. & Rozzi, R. Birds as marine–terrestrial linkages in sub-polar archipelagic systems: avian community composition, function and seasonal dynamics in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (54–55°S), Chile. Polar Biol 35, 39–51 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-011-1029-7

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Keywords

  • Sub-Antarctic avifauna
  • Ecotone
  • Milvago chimango
  • Trans-ecosystemic links