Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 203–216 | Cite as

Modeling and field-testing of Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) responses to boreal forest dissection by energy sector development at multiple spatial scales

  • Erin M. Bayne
  • Steve L. Van Wilgenburg
  • Stan Boutin
  • Keith A. Hobson
Research article


Although the area disturbed by linear features in forested systems is small relative to many other human disturbances, linear features create significantly more amounts of edge per unit area. In the boreal plains of Alberta, Canada, energy sector exploration has resulted in extensive dissection of the landscape through 8 m wide seismic lines. A spatially explicit model was developed to test how bird abundance might change in response to increasing seismic line density if individuals use seismic lines as territory boundaries or actively avoid these edges. Assuming birds had fixed territory shape and size, increasing seismic line density from 0 to 8 km/km2 resulted in a 38% decline and an 82% decline in bird abundance when individuals used lines as territory boundaries or avoided edges by 50 m, respectively. We tested the assumptions of our model using the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus). Based on radio-telemetry (n = 12), all Ovenbirds crossed seismic lines at some point during the breeding season. However, male Ovenbirds showed a distinct use of one side of the seismic line, suggesting lines acted as territory boundaries. In 12.25 ha plots (n = 24) spot-mapping detected no change in Ovenbird density as linear feature density increased from 0 to 8.6 km/km2. In 4 km2 landscapes (n = 62) sampled using a grid of nine point-counts, we also detected no changes in Ovenbird numbers across the same range of seismic line densities. Ovenbirds declined with seismic line density at the level of the individual point-count station (12 ha scale), but only when a threshold seismic line density of 8.5 km/km2 was reached. Above the threshold, Ovenbirds declined 19% for each 1 km/km2 increase in seismic line density. While relatively few places in Alberta’s boreal forest have local seismic line densities of 8.5 km/km2, forest dissection could increasingly become an issue if current energy exploration practices continue.


Fragmentation Passive displacement Seismic line Spatial model Threshold 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin M. Bayne
    • 1
  • Steve L. Van Wilgenburg
    • 2
  • Stan Boutin
    • 1
  • Keith A. Hobson
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Integrated Landscape Management Group, Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaAlbertaCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Wildlife ServiceSaskatchewanCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatchewanCanada

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