, Volume 175, Issue 4, pp 1301–1313 | Cite as

Temporal dynamics of bird community composition: an analysis of baseline conditions from long-term data

  • Christian Kampichler
  • David G. Angeler
  • Richard T. Holmes
  • Aivar Leito
  • Sören Svensson
  • Henk P. van der Jeugd
  • Tomasz Wesołowski
Community ecology - Original research


Numerous anthropogenic activities threaten the biodiversity found on earth. Because all ecological communities constantly experience temporal turnover due to natural processes, it is important to distinguish between change due to anthropogenic impact and the underlying natural rate of change. In this study, we used data sets on breeding bird communities that covered at least 20 consecutive years, from a variety of terrestrial ecosystems, to address two main questions. (1) How fast does the composition of bird communities change over time, and can we identify a baseline of natural change that distinguishes primeval systems from systems experiencing varying degrees of human impact? (2) How do patterns of temporal variation in composition vary among bird communities in ecosystems with different anthropogenic impacts? Time lag analysis (TLA) showed a pattern of increasing rate of temporal compositional change from large-scale primeval systems to disturbed and protected systems to distinctly successional systems. TLA slopes of <0.04 were typical for breeding bird communities with natural turnover, while communities subjected to anthropogenic impact were characterised by TLA slopes of >0.04. Most of the temporal variability of breeding bird communities was explained by slow changes occurring over decades, regardless of the intensity of human impact. In most of the time series, medium- and short-wave periodicity was not detected, with the exception of breeding bird communities subjected to periodic pulses (e.g. caterpillar outbreaks causing food resource peaks).


Community dynamics Long-term datasets Periodicity Primeval forests Time lag analysis Time series 



Our thanks to the Vogelwerkgroep Meijendel (in particular to J.C.P. Westgeest) who placed the data from the Meijendel Dunes, The Netherlands, at our disposal, and to H. de Nie and G. Sanders for providing their data from Mastbos and Hoekelum Manor, respectively. Research on the bird community at the Hubbard Brook site was funded by grants from the US National Science Foundation and the data are available at We are grateful to Anders Enemar for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This is NIOO publication 5622.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Kampichler
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • David G. Angeler
    • 4
  • Richard T. Holmes
    • 5
  • Aivar Leito
    • 6
  • Sören Svensson
    • 7
  • Henk P. van der Jeugd
    • 2
  • Tomasz Wesołowski
    • 8
  1. 1.Sovon Dutch Centre for Field OrnithologyNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Vogeltrekstation—Dutch Centre for Avian Migration and Demography, NIOO-KNAWWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.División de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad Juárez Autónoma de TabascoVillahermosaMexico
  4. 4.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  6. 6.Institute of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesEstonian Agricultural UniversityTartuEstonia
  7. 7.Department of EcologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  8. 8.Laboratory of Forest BiologyWrocław UniversityWrocławPoland

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