Environmental Management

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 203–216 | Cite as

Long-Term Community Dynamics of Small Landbirds with and Without Exposure to Extensive Disturbance from Military Training Activities

  • James W. RiversEmail author
  • Philip S. Gipson
  • Donald P. Althoff
  • Jeffrey S. Pontius


Military training activities are known to impact individual species, yet our understanding of how such activities influence animal communities is limited. In this study, we used long-term data in a case study approach to examine the extent to which the local small landbird community differed between a site in northeast Kansas that experienced intensive disturbance from military training activities (Ft. Riley Military Installation) and a similar, nearby site that experienced minimal human disturbance (Konza Prairie Biological Station). In addition, we characterized how the regional pool of potential colonizers influenced local community dynamics using Breeding Bird Survey data. From 1991 to 2001, most species of small terrestrial landbirds (73%) recorded during breeding surveys were found at both sites and the mean annual richness at Ft. Riley (39.0 ± 2.86 [SD]) was very similar to that of Konza Prairie (39.4 ± 2.01). Richness was maintained at relatively constant levels despite compositional changes because colonizations compensated local extinctions at both sites. These dynamics were driven primarily by woodland species that exhibited stochastic losses and gains and were present at a low local and regional abundance. Our results suggest that military training activities may mimic natural disturbances for some species in this area because the small landbird community did not differ markedly between sites with and sites without extensive human disturbance. Although our results suggest that military training is not associated with large changes in the avian community, additional studies are needed to determine if this pattern is found in other ecological communities.


Anthropogenic disturbance Community dynamics Grassland birds Military training Songbird conservation 



Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Army through the Land Condition Trend Analysis program at Fort Riley and the Division of Biology at Kansas State University. Data from Konza Prairie were collected as part of the Konza Prairie Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program (NSF Grant DEB-9632851). We thank J. Zimmerman, C. Smith, and B. Sandercock for conducting bird surveys at Konza Prairie; J. Keating, K. Cherry, and G. Suleiman for conducting bird surveys at Fort Riley; and B. Brock and P. Woodford for providing logistical support of this research. We thank M. Smith for her extensive assistance with this project and M. Betts, J. Goheen, S. Yelenik, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback on an early version of the manuscript. This paper is dedicated to the memory of J. S. Pontius—an exceptional scientist, educator, and friend.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Rivers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philip S. Gipson
    • 2
  • Donald P. Althoff
    • 3
  • Jeffrey S. Pontius
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecosystems and SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources ManagementTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  3. 3.School of SciencesUniversity of Rio GrandeRio GrandeUSA
  4. 4.Department of StatisticsKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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