, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 701-714

Use of avian and mammalian guilds as indicators of cumulative impacts in riparian-wetland areas

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Abstract

A new method of assessing cumulative effects of human activities on bird and mammal communities of riparian-wetland areas was developed by using response guilds to reflect how species theoretically respond to habitat disturbance on a landscape level. All bird and mammal species of Pennsylvania were assigned values for each response guild using documented information for each species, to reflect their sensitivity to disturbances; high guild scores corresponded to low tolerance toward habitat disturbance. We hypothesized that, given limited time and resources, determining how wildife communities change in response to environmental impacts can be done more efficiently with a response-guild approach than a single-species approach. To test the model, censuses of birds and mammals were conducted along wetland and riparian areas of a protected and a disturbed watershed in central Pennsylvania. The percent of bird species with high response-guild scores (i.e., species that had specific habitat requirements and/or were neotropical migrants) remained relatively stable through the protected watershed. As intensity of habitat alteration increased through the disturbed watershed, percentage of bird species with high response-guild scores decreased. Only 2%–3% of the neotropical migrants that had specific habitat requirements were breeding residents in disturbed habitats as compared to 17%–20% in reference areas. Species in the edge and exotic guild classifications (low guild scores) were found in greater percentages in the disturbed watershed. Composition of mammalian guilds showed no consistent pattern associated with habitat disturbance. Avian response guilds reflected habitat disturbance more predictively than mammalian response guilds.