Research Article

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 1169-1186

First online:

A riverscape perspective on habitat associations among riverine bird assemblages in the Lake Champlain Basin, USA

  • S. Mažeika P. SullivanAffiliated withRubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, University of VermontDepartment of Fish and Wildlife Resources, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho Email author 
  • , Mary C. WatzinAffiliated withRubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, University of Vermont
  • , William S. KeetonAffiliated withRubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont

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Abstract

The riverscape perspective recognizes the heterogeneous habitat types within the stream corridor as a single, integrated ecological unit operating across spatial scales. Although there is ample evidence that the riverscape notion is appropriate in understanding the physical phenomena of stream corridors, significantly less attention has focused on its ecological ramifications. To this end, we surveyed riverscape habitat variables and bird community characteristics in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, USA. From the data collected, we used information theoretic methodology (AICc) to model relationships between bird community attributes and key habitat variables across the riverscape. Our models with the greatest support suggest that riverine bird communities respond to a suite of characteristics; representing a variety of riverscape habitats at the in-stream, floodplain, and riparian levels. Channel slope, drainage area, percent conifers, and in-stream habitat condition were among the most influential variables. We found that piscivores are potentially important indicators of riverscape condition, responding to a host of variables across the riverscape. Our results endorse a holistic approach to assessing and managing the mosaic of patches in the riverscape and suggest that a riverscape approach has significant conservation potential.

Keywords

Bird communities Conservation Floodplain Information theoretic method In-stream Riparian Riverscape