Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 20, pp 19530–19545 | Cite as

Bird diversity and dissimilarity show contrasting patterns along heavy metal pollution gradients in the Urals, Russia

  • Eugen A. Belskii
  • Vladimir S. Mikryukov
Research Article


The effects of industrial pollution on bird diversity have been widely studied using traditional diversity measures, which assume all species to be equivalent. We compared species richness and Shannon index with distance-based measures of taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity (the abundance-weighted mean nearest taxon distances), which describe within-community dissimilarity at terminal branches. Analysis of dissimilarity can shed light on the processes underlying community assembly, i.e., environmental filtering decreases dissimilarity whereas competitive exclusion increases it. In the 2-year study near Karabash and Revda copper smelters in Russia, point counts of nesting birds and habitat descriptions were taken at 10 sites (40 plots) along each pollution gradient. The abundance and diversity of birds showed good repeatability in both regions. The total density of birds, number of species per plot, and Shannon diversity decreased at high toxic load in both regions. The taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic nearest taxon distances showed the same pattern within regions. Species dissimilarity within communities increased with pollution in Karabash (due to loss of functionally similar species), but did not change in Revda (due to mass replacement of forest species by species of open habitats). Pollution-induced changes in bird communities near Karabash were greater due to the stronger deterioration of the forest ecosystems and less favorable natural conditions (more arid climate, lower diversity and vitality of the tree stand and understorey) compared to Revda. This study emphasizes the need for a multi-level approach to the analysis of bird communities using traditional indices of diversity, functional, taxonomic, or phylogenetic distances between species and environmental variables.


Heavy metals Boreal forest Bird community Taxonomic diversity Functional diversity Phylogenetic diversity Nearest taxon distance 



We thank E.L. Vorobeichik and anonymous referees for valuable comments on the manuscript and A.V. Shtshepetkin for performing chemical analyses. Language editing was provided by J. Dodgson ( The study was supported by the State Contract of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, UB RAS (field work and basic analyses) and by the Integrated Research Program of the Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, project no. 18-4-4-9 (preparation of the manuscript).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Plant and Animal EcologyUral Branch, Russian Academy of SciencesYekaterinburgRussia

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