Habitat-specific vegetation and seasonal drivers of bird community structure and function in southern Patagonian forests

Abstract

Biodiversity conservation requires knowledge about the factors that influence the structure and function of biotic assemblages. In southern Patagonian Nothofagus forests, birds are the most abundant and diverse vertebrates and are known to have different requirements for nesting, breeding and feeding. Therefore, we chose this group to analyze key drivers of avian community dynamics; for conservation purposes, this information is requisite to manage Nothofagus forest landscapes and their associated biota. We first characterized forest structure and understory floristic composition in open and closed canopy broadleaved forests of mixed deciduous (MD) and mixed deciduous-evergreen (MDE) species on the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina. For each habitat, bird assemblages were assessed using point counts, checklists and mistnetting. We used ANOVAs and multivariate methods to analyze changes in bird species richness, density, and biomass as a function of habitat and seasonal characteristics. Forest structure and understory plant communities influenced avian assemblage and density; MDE forests had significantly greater species richness, but lower density than MD. Plus, particular species were associated with specific understory conditions, such as Anairetes parulus and Zonotrichia capensis whose presence was related to shrubs. Additionally, variations observed between seasons apparently were related to differential uses of each habitat type during certain times of year. Finally, it was not possible to define a single forest type with greater conservation value for birds; each had a specific bird species assemblage. Consequently, our results suggest the importance of a full representation of habitats to preserve the region’s bird diversity, which also has been described for forest invertebrates and understory plants.

Abbreviations

BA:

Total Basal Area

CAR:

Carnivore

CC:

Canopy Cover

CCA:

Canonical Correspondence Analysis

CL:

Closed

D:

Density

DCA:

Detrended Correspondence Analysis

DH:

Dominant Height

HER:

Herbivore

INS:

Insectivore

LAI:

Leaf Area Index

MD:

Mixed of Deciduous species

MDE:

Mixed of Deciduous and Evergreen species

QMD:

Quadratic Mean Diameter

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Correspondence to C. B. Anderson.

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Pastur, G.M., Lencinas, M.V., Gallo, E. et al. Habitat-specific vegetation and seasonal drivers of bird community structure and function in southern Patagonian forests. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 16, 55–65 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1556/168.2015.16.1.7

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Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Nothofagus
  • Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Trophic ecology
  • Sub-Antarctic forests

Nomenclature

  • Clements (2008)