Advertisement

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 895–909 | Cite as

Threshold responses of grassland and sagebrush birds to patterns of disturbance created by an ecosystem engineer

  • Courtney J. DuchardtEmail author
  • David J. Augustine
  • Jeffrey L. Beck
Research Article
  • 153 Downloads

Abstract

Context

Burrowing mammals play a role in rangeland disturbance worldwide, enhancing habitat for certain species while negatively affecting others. However, little is known concerning effects of disturbance spatial pattern on co-occuring fauna. In the North American Great Plains, colonial black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) may enhance habitat for one suite of birds while degrading habitat for others.

Objectives

We examined the influence of prairie dogs on birds in a mosaic grassland–shrubland landscape. We evaluated how birds associated with shortgrass, midgrass, and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) plant communities respond to spatial pattern of prairie dog disturbance and identified thresholds where abundance changes.

Methods

We surveyed bird abundance on prairie dog colonies of varying sizes and shapes, across colony edges into undisturbed habitat, and within undisturbed sagebrush in northeastern Wyoming. We modeled species responses to colony presence, distance to colony edge, and total area and edge density of colonies at four spatial scales (100 m, 225 m, 500 m, 1000 m).

Results

Sagebrush specialists like Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri) and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) were 4.5 times more abundant in undisturbed shrublands. Conversely, the shortgrass-specialist mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) was abundant on colonies but showed a non-linear response to colony edge, increasing in abundance up to 600 m from edges then declining further towards colony cores.

Conclusions

While some species may be broadly intolerant to disturbance, disturbance-dependent birds can display a “goldilocks syndrome” relative to disturbance size. As such, management for multiple species of conservation concern can be optimized relative to other goals by identifying thresholds associated with the effect of disturbance.

Keywords

Mountain plover Grasshopper sparrow Brewer’s sparrow Sage thrasher Rangeland Community Ecotone 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provided by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, UW Agriculture Experiment Station, and Laramie Audubon Society. We thank J. Hennig, S. Green and S. Rankins for collecting field data, I.G. for data processing, and M. Murphy and C. Tarwater for consultation about data analyses. We also thank the U.S. Forest Service and the Thunder Basin Grassland Prairie Ecosystem Association for help coordinating field efforts. Thanks also to A. Meyer for a photo of an elusive, if not local, grasshopper sparrow. All other photos and figures by C. Duchardt.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_813_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)

References

  1. Abbott R, Osorio J, Bunck C, Rocke T (2012) Sylvatic plague vaccine: a new tool for conservation of threatened and endangered species? EcoHealth 9:243–250CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldridge CL, Hanser SE, Nielsen SE et al (2011) Detectability adjusted count models of songbird abundance. In: Hanser SE, Leu M, Knick ST, Aldridge CL (eds) Sagebrush ecosystem conservation and management: ecoregional assessment tools and models for the Wyoming basins. Allen Press, Lawrence, pp 141–220Google Scholar
  3. Allred BW, Smith WK, Twidwell D et al (2015) Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America. Science 348:401–402CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Andrewartha HG, Birch LC (1954) The distribution and abundance of animals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Antolin MF, Gober P, Luce B, Biggins DE, Van Pelt WE, Seery DB, Lockhart M, Ball M (2002) The influence of sylvatic plague on North American wildlife at the landscape level, with special emphasis on black-footed ferret and prairie dog conservation. In: Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, vol 67, pp 104–127Google Scholar
  6. Augustine D, Baker B (2013) Associations of grassland bird communities with black-tailed prairie dogs in the North American Great Plains. Conserv Biol 27:324–334CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Augustine DJ, Derner JD (2015) Patch-burn grazing management, vegetation heterogeneity, and avian responses in a semi-arid grassland. J Wildl Manag 79:927–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Augustine DJ, Dinsmore SJ, Wunder MB et al (2008) Response of mountain plovers to plague-driven dynamics of black-tailed prairie dog colonies. Landscape Ecol 23:689–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Augustine D, Skagen S (2014) Mountain plover nest survival in relation to prairie dog and fire dynamics in shortgrass steppe. J Wildl Manag 78:595–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baker WL (2006) Fire and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems. Wildl Soc Bull 34:177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Beck JL, Connelly JW, Wambolt CL (2012) Consequences of treating Wyoming big sagebrush to enhance wildlife habitats. Rangel Ecol Manag 65:444–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bestelmeyer BT, Ellison AM, Fraser WR et al (2011) Analysis of abrupt transitions in ecological systems. Ecosphere.  https://doi.org/10.1890/es11-00216.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. BirdLife International (2017) Charadrius montanus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017Google Scholar
  14. Brawn JD, Robinson SK, Iii FRT (2001) The role of disturbance in the ecology and conservation of birds. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 32:231–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and Multi-model inference: a practical-theoretical approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Canfield RH (1941) Application of the line intercept method in sampling range vegetation. J Forest 39:388–394Google Scholar
  17. Ceballos G, Davidson A, List R et al (2010) Rapid decline of a grassland system and its ecological and conservation implications. PLoS One 5:e8562CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Chambers JC et al (2016) Using resilience and resistance concepts to manage threats to sagebrush ecosystems, Gunnison sage-grouse, and greater sage-grouse in their eastern range: a strategic multi-scale approach. Gen Tech Rep RMRS-GTR-356. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, p 143Google Scholar
  19. Collinge SK, Johnson WC, Ray C et al (2005) Landscape structure and plague occurrence in black-tailed prairie dogs on grasslands of the western USA. Landscape Ecol 20:941–955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Connelly JW, Rinkes ET, Braun CE (2011) Characteristics of greater sage-grouse habitats: a landscape species at micro and macro scales. In: Knick ST, Connelly JW (eds) Greater sage-grouse: ecology and conservation of a landscape species and its habitats, studies in Avian Biology (vol 38). University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 69–84Google Scholar
  21. Cully JF, Collinge SK, Van Nimwegen RE et al (2010) Spatial variation in keystone effects: small mammal diversity associated with black-tailed prairie dog colonies. Ecography 33:667–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davidson AD, Lightfoot DC (2007) Interactive effects of keystone rodents on the structure of desert grassland arthropod communities. Ecography 30:515–525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Davis SK, Lanyon WE (2008) Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), version 2.0. In: Poole AF (ed) The birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  24. Derner JD, Detling JK, Antolin MF (2006) Are livestock weight gains affected by black-tailed prairie dogs? Front Ecol Environ 4:459–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Desmond M, Savidge J, Eskridge KM (2000) Correlations between burrowing owl and black-tailed prairie dog declines: a 7-year analysis. J Wildl Manag 64:1067–1075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dinsmore S, Smith M (2010) Mountain Plover responses to plague in Montana. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 10:37–45CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Dinsmore SJ, White GC, Knopf FL (2002) Advanced techniques for modeling avian nest survival. Ecology 83:3476–3488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dinsmore SJ, White GC, Knopf FL (2005) Mountain plover population responses to black-tailed prairie dogs in Montana. J Wildl Manag 69:1546–1553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. DiTomaso JM, Monaco TA, James JJ, Firn J (2017) Invasive plant species and novel rangeland systems. In: Briske D (ed) Rangeland systems: processes, management, and challenges. Springer, Cham, pp 429–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dobson A, Lyles A (2000) Black-footed ferret recovery. Science 288:985–988CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Duchardt CJ, Porensky LM, Augustine DM, Beck JL (2018) Disturbance shapes grassland bird communities on a grassland-sagebrush ecotone. Ecosphere 9(10):e02483.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.248 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fuhlendorf SD, Engle DM (2001) Restoring heterogeneity on rangelands. Bioscience 51:625–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fuhlendorf SD, Engle DM, Elmore RD et al (2012) Conservation of pattern and process: developing an alternative paradigm of rangeland management. Rangel Ecol Manag 65:579–589.  https://doi.org/10.2111/REM-D-11-00109.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fuhlendorf SD, Fynn RWS, McGranahan DA, Twidwell D (2017) Heterogeneity as the basis for rangeland management. In: Briske DD (ed) Rangeland systems: processes, management, and challenges. Springer, Cham, pp 169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Garrett MG, Franklin WL (1988) Behavioral ecology of dispersal in the black-tailed prairie dog. J Mammal 69:236–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goguen CB (2012) Habitat use by mountain plovers in prairie dog colonies in northeastern New Mexico. J F Ornithol 83:154–165.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1557-9263.2012.00365.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Graul WD (1975) Breeding biology of the mountain plover. Wilson Bull 87:6–31Google Scholar
  38. Hastie TT, Tibshirani RR (1986) Generalized additive models. Stat Sci 1:297–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Herrick JE, Van Zee JW, Havstad KM et al (2009) Monitoring manual for grassland, shrubland and savanna ecosystems, volume 1, quick start. University of Arizona Press, TucsonGoogle Scholar
  40. Hoogland JL (1995) The black-tailed prairie dog: social life of a burrowing mammal. The University of Chicago Press, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  41. Houston BR, Clark TW, Minta SC (1986) Habitat suitability index model for the black-footed ferret: a method to locate transplant sites. Great Basin Nat Mem 8:99–114Google Scholar
  42. Hutto RL (1985) Habitat selection by nonbreeding, migratory landbirds. In: Cody ML (ed) Habitat selection in birds. Academic Press, New York, pp 455–476Google Scholar
  43. Johnson TL, Cully JF, Collinge SK et al (2011) Spread of plague among black-tailed prairie dogs is associated with colony spatial characteristics. J Wildl Manag 75:357–368.  https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.40 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Johnson-Nistler CM, Sowell BF, Sherwood HW, Wambolt CL (2004) Black-tailed prairie dog effects on Montana’s mixed-grass prairie. J Rangel Manag 57:641–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kirkpatrick M, Barton NH (1997) Evolution of a species’ range. Am Nat 150:1–23CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Knick ST, Hanser SE (2011) Connecting pattern and process in greater sage-grouse populations and sagebrush landscapes. In: Knick ST, Connelly JW (eds) Greater sage-grouse: ecology and conservation of a landscape species and its habitats, studies in avian biology, vol 38. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 383–406Google Scholar
  47. Knick ST, Holmes AL, Miller RF (2005) The role of fire in structuring sagebrush habitats and bird communities. Stud Avian Biol 30:1–13Google Scholar
  48. Knopf FL, Miller BJ (1994) Charadrius montanus–montane, grassland, or bare-ground plover? Auk 111:504–506  CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Knopf FL, Wunder MB (2006) Mountain plover (Charadrius montanus). In: Poole A (ed) In the birds of North America online. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  50. Kotliar N, Baker B, Whicker A, Plumb G (1999) A critical review of assumptions about the prairie dog as a keystone species. Environ Manag 24:177–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Large SI, Fay G, Friedland KD, Link JS (2013) Defining trends and thresholds in responses of ecological indicators to fishing and environmental pressures. ICES J Mar Sci 70:755–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Legendre P, Legendre L (1998) Numerical ecology, 2nd edn. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  53. Lomolino M, Smith G (2004) Terrestrial vertebrate communities at black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) towns. Biol Conserv 115:89–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lybecker D, Lamb BL, Ponds PD (2002) Public attitudes and knowledge of the black-tailed prairie dog: a common and controversial species. Bioscience 52:607–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Martin JW, Carlson BA (1998) Sagebrush sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis), version 20. In: Poole AF (ed) The birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  56. Miller S, Cully J (2001) Conservation of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). J Mamm 82:889–893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Miller BJ, Reading R, Biggings D et al (2007) Prairie dogs: an ecological review and current biopolitics. J Wildl Dis 71:2801–2810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Milne-laux AS, Sweitzer RA (2006) Experimentally induced colony expansion by black-tailed Prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and implications for conservation. J Mamm 87:296–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Moran PAP (1950) Notes on continuous stochastic phenomena. Biometrika 37:17CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] (2018) National Centers for Environmental Information. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/datasets#GHCND. Accessed 04 June 2016
  61. Pavlacky DC, Lukacs PM, Blakesley JA et al (2017) A statistically rigorous sampling design to integrate avian monitoring and management within Bird Conservation Regions. PLoS One 12:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ponce-Guevara E, Davidson A, Sierra-Corona R, Ceballos G (2016) Interactive effects of black-tailed prairie dogs and cattle on shrub encroachment in a desert grassland ecosystem. PLoS One 11:e0154748CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Porensky LM, Derner JD, Pellatz D (2018) Plant community responses to historical wildfire in a shrubland-grassland ecotone reveal hybrid disturbance response. Ecosphere 9(8):e02363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Reading RP, Kellert SR (1993) Attitudes toward a proposed reintroduction of black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes). Conserv Biol 7:569–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reynolds TD, Rich TD, Stephens DA (1999) Sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus), version 2.0. In: Pooler AF, Gill FB (eds) The birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  66. Riebsame WE, Gosnell H, Theobald DM (1996) Land use and landscape change in the Colorado Mountains I: theory, Scale, and Pattern. Mt Res Dev 16:395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ries L, Fletcher RJJ, Battin J, Sisk TD (2004) Ecological responses to habitat edges: mechanisms, models, and variability explained. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 35:491–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Robel RI, Briggs JN, Dayton AD, Hulbert LC (1970) Relationships between visual obstruction measurements and weight of grassland vegetation. J Rangel Manag 23:295–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Roelle JE, Godbey JL, Biggins DE (2005) Recovery of the Black-footed Ferret: progress and continuing challenges. In: Proceedings, symposium status black-footed ferret its habitat, Fort Collins, Color, p 288Google Scholar
  70. Rotenberry JT, Patten MA, Preston KL (1999) Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri), version 2.0. In: Poole AF, Gill FB (eds) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  71. Ruckelshaus Institute (2017) Thunder basin National Grassland collaboration report. University of Wyoming, LaramieGoogle Scholar
  72. Sala OE, Yahdjian L, Havstad K, Aguiar MR (2017) Rangeland ecosystem services: nature’s supply and humans’ demand. In: Briske D (ed) Rangeland systems: processes, management, and challenges. Springer, Cham, pp 467–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sayre NF (2017) The politics of scale: a history of rangeland science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schneider SC, Wunder MB, Knopf FL, Jones CA (2006) Relationship between shrubs and foods in mountain plover habitat in Park County, Colorado. Southwest Nat 51:197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Seery D, Biggins D (2003) Treatment of black-tailed prairie dog burrows with deltamethrin to control fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera) and plague. J Med Entomol 40:718–722CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Seery D, Matiatos D (2000) Response of wintering buteos to plague epizootics in prairie dogs. West North Am Nat 60:420–425Google Scholar
  77. Shackford JS (1996) The importance of shade to breeding mountain plovers. Bull Oklahoma Ornithol Soc 29:17–21Google Scholar
  78. Shipley B, Reading R (2006) A comparison of herpetofauna and small mammal diversity on black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colonies and non-colonized grasslands in Colorado. J Arid Environ 66:27–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sidle JG, Augustine DJ, Johnson DH et al (2012) Aerial surveys adjusted by ground surveys to estimate area occupied by black-tailed prairie dog colonies. Wildl Soc Bull 36:248–256.  https://doi.org/10.1002/wsb.146 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (2010). National resources inventory rangeland resource assessment, natural resources conservation service. US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  81. US Forest Service (2017). Wildlife, fish, and sensitive plant habitat management: threatened, endangered and sensitive plants and animals. Forest Service Manual. Rocky Mountain Region, Denver COGoogle Scholar
  82. Van Nimwegen R, Kretzer J Jr, Cully JF (2008) Ecosystem engineering by a colonial mammal: how prairie dogs structure rodent communities. Ecology 89:3298–3305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Vickery PD (1996) Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), version 20. In: Poole AF, Gill FB (eds) The birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  84. Williams ES, Mills K, Kwiatkowski DR et al (1994) Plague in a black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes). J Wildl Dis 30:581–585CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Wood SN (2011) Fast stable restricted maximum likelihood and marginal likelihood estimation of semiparametric generalized linear models. J R Stat Soc Ser B Stat Methodol 73:3–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wood S, Scheipl F (2017) gamm4: Generalized additive mixed models using ‘mgcv’ and ‘lme4’. R package version 0.2–5Google Scholar
  87. Woolley CA (2016) Mountain plover breeding ecology: home-range size, habitat use, and nest survival in an agricultural landscape, Thesis. University of Colorado, DenverGoogle Scholar
  88. Wright CK, Wimberly MC (2013) Recent land use change in the western Corn Belt threatens grasslands and wetlands. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110:4134–4139CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem Science and Management and Program in EcologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS Rangeland Resources and Systems Research UnitFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations