, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 1673-1686
Date: 07 Dec 2010

Effects of exotic Spartina alterniflora on the habitat patch associations of breeding saltmarsh birds at Chongming Dongtan in the Yangtze River estuary, China

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Abstract

Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is one of the most invasive exotic plants of saltmarshes worldwide. To understand the effects of smooth cordgrass invasion on the habitat use and selection by breeding saltmarsh birds, we compared species number and abundance of breeding birds in native reed (Phragmites australis) and smooth cordgrass-invaded habitats (reed-cordgrass mixed habitats and cordgrass monocultures) at Chongming Dongtan in the Yangtze River estuary, China. We further examined the similarity of bird communities in different habitats and habitat selection by dominant bird species. For saltmarsh generalists, species number and abundance did not differ among the habitats. For saltmarsh specialists, species number and abundance did not differ in reed monocultures and reed-cordgrass mixed habitats but were significantly lower in cordgrass monocultures than in reed monocultures and reed-cordgrass mixed habitats. ANOSIM indicated that the difference in bird communities was larger between cordgrass monocultures and the habitats with reed than between the habitats with reed. The saltmarsh specialists preferred reed monocultures, while saltmarsh generalists avoided reed monocultures. Most species indicated no selection (neither preferred nor avoided) on reed-cordgrass mixed habitats, and no species preferred the cordgrass monocultures. The use of cordgrass monocultures by the common saltmarsh birds was negatively related to their body size. This study suggests that the spread of exotic smooth cordgrass has greatly affected the species composition and structure of local bird communities and has been especially disadvantageous to the saltmarsh specialists.