, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 1299–1311 | Cite as

Are Boreal Riparian Bird Communities Unique? Contrasting Riparian and Upland Bird Assemblages in the Boreal Plain of Western Canada

  • Julienne L. Morissette
  • Kevin J. Kardynal
  • Erin M. Bayne
  • Keith A. Hobson
General Wetland Science


Riparian ecotones in arid regions often contain unique species and have higher species richness and abundance relative to upland habitats making them of higher conservation priority than other habitats. However, such differences in species richness and abundance may not be apparent in more mesic regions. We compared species frequency of occurrence and abundance, richness and turnover of bird assemblages in two aquatic ecotone types with those in nearby interior upland forests in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada. Riparian edge habitats had higher species richness and more species with significant indicator values than lowland forest edge or interior upland forest and the greatest differences in bird community composition were between riparian edge and upland interio habitats. Species turnover was highest in riparian habitats attributable to the presence of rare species or higher spatial and structural heterogeneity of those systems. When contrasting the upland forested area adjacent to the waterbody versus a similar sized area in the upland forest interior, riparian areas still contained higher richness but had fewer indicator species. We suggest that riparian areas and the adjacent shoreline forest contribute considerably to the regional richness of bird communities in the boreal forest and management policies should reflect this characteristic.


Riparian Community ecology Conservation policy Species turnover Wetlands 



We thank T. Lanson, C. Stevens, S. Haughian, L. Flaman, and S. Bumstead for their able field work. T. Cobb, C. Pazscowski and L.Foote reviewed and provided thoughtful comment to early drafts. G. Stewart, E. Butterworth initially championed the project and K. Devito allowed us to use the Hydrology Ecology and Disturbance project field camp. This project was supported by the Alberta Conservation Association (project # 0308090101), Ducks Unlimited Canada, Environment Canada -Western Boreal Conservation Initiative, Sustainable Forest Management Network (project # hobsonkbore9) and the University of Alberta. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments that greatly improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

13157_2018_1054_MOESM1_ESM.doc (138 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 137 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ducks Unlimited CanadaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences, CW 405, Biological Sciences Bldg.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Spruce GroveCanada
  4. 4.Environment and Climate Change CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  5. 5.Department of BiologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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