Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 105, Issue 1–3, pp 209–228 | Cite as

Relationship Between Bird Abundances and Landscape Characteristics: The Influence of Scale

  • Sarah P. Brennan
  • Gary D. Schnell


Scale is important to consider when investigating effects of the environment on a species. Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data and landscape metrics derived from aerial photographs were evaluated to determine how relationships of bird abundances with landscape variables changed over a continuous range of 16 spatial scales. We analyzed the average number of birds per stop (1985–1994) for five songbird species (family Cardinalidae) for each of 50 stops on 198 BBS transects throughout six states in the Central Plains, USA. Land along each transect was categorized into six cover types, and landscape metrics of fractal dimension (a measure of shape complexity of habitat patches), edge density, patch density, and percent area were calculated, with principal components used to construct composite environmental variables. Associations of bird abundances and landscape variables changed in accordance with small scale changes. Abundances of three species were correlated with edge density and one with component I, which subsumes initial variables of patch density for urban, closed forest, open forest, and open country. Fractal dimension and component II (summarizing amount of closed forest versus open country) were associated with the most species. Correlation patterns of fractal dimension with northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and painted bunting (Passerina ciris) abundances were similar, with highest correlations at intermediate to small scales, suggesting indirectly that these species thrive in areas where local habitat conditions are most important. Multiscale analysis can provide insight into the spatial scale(s) at which species respond, a topic of intrinsic scientific interest with applied implications for researchers establishing protocols to assess and monitor avian populations.


blue grosbeak Cardinalidae dickcissel fractal dimension indigo bunting landscape multiple scales northern cardinal painted bunting scale continuum 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural HistoryUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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