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Bird species diversity in riparian buffers, row crop fields, and grazed pastures within agriculturally dominated watersheds

Abstract

In response to concern about the loss of ecosystem services once provided by natural riparian systems, state and federal agencies have established incentive programs for landowners to convert sensitive lands from agricultural to conservation uses. Enhancement of wildlife habitat, while identified as a function of such systems, has often been of secondary importance to soil conservation and water quality objectives. Though greatly important, little consideration has been given to how specific species will respond to the design and management of riparian buffers or other conservation lands. This study compared avian communities within a chronosequence of riparian buffers established on previously cropped or pastured land with those of the nearby matrix land cover types (row crop fields and an intensively grazed pasture). The riparian buffers consisted of native grasses, forbs, and woody vegetation established at three different times (2, 9, and 14+ years prior to survey). At each site, 10 min point counts for breeding birds were conducted using 50 m fixed radius plots, which were visited eight times between May 15 and July 10, 2008. A total of 54 bird species were observed over all of the study sites. The re-established riparian buffers in this study had higher bird abundance, richness, and diversity than the crop and pasture sites. These results suggest that re-establishing native riparian vegetation in areas of intensive agriculture will provide habitat for a broad suite of bird species, but that specific species will reflect successional stage, horizontal and vertical vegetative structure, and compositional diversity of the buffer vegetation. These results emphasize the importance of matching buffer design and management to species requirements if the objectives are to attract specific target species or species groups.

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Acknowledgments

This research has been funded through the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry. We thank the landowners who allowed us access to their property and Jaymi LeBrun for her assistance in setting up the bird survey.

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Correspondence to Thomas M. Isenhart.

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Berges, S.A., Schulte Moore, L.A., Isenhart, T.M. et al. Bird species diversity in riparian buffers, row crop fields, and grazed pastures within agriculturally dominated watersheds. Agroforest Syst 79, 97–110 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-009-9270-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-009-9270-6

Keywords

  • Bird habitat
  • Riparian forest buffer
  • Iowa
  • Point count
  • Species richness