Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 129–148 | Cite as

Habitat–occupancy associations and tree-species use patterns by breeding birds in Tibetan sacred forests

  • Eric M. WoodEmail author
  • Jodi S. Brandt
  • Anna M. Pidgeon
  • Volker C. Radeloff
Original Paper


Himalayan forests are undergoing rapid changes due to population growth and economic development and their associated bird communities are among the most threatened and least-studied on earth. In the Chinese Himalaya, traditionally managed Tibetan sacred forests are keystone structures for forest bird conservation. Yet, it remains unclear which fine-scale habitat characteristics of the sacred forests are best associated with Himalayan forest bird species. Our goal here was to quantify the relationship between forest habitat characteristics and bird communities in Tibetan sacred forests to understand habitat associations of common forest birds in the Chinese Himalaya. In 2010 and 2011, we conducted bird point counts and habitat surveys at 62, 50-m radius, sample points distributed within and adjacent to six Tibetan sacred forests in northwest Yunnan, China. From this data, we constructed habitat–occupancy relationship models for 35 bird species and documented tree-use patterns of 14 common arboreal foraging bird species. Our modeling results revealed that large diameter trees and heterogeneity in vertical vegetation structure were the most important habitat characteristics, and were positively associated with occupancy of 63 % of the study bird species. Furthermore, we found that occupancy of eight bird species of conservation concern was related to specific thresholds of forest integrity characteristics. For example, predicted occupancy of three of eight species was high in forested habitats with >15 % bamboo cover and was greatly reduced when bare ground cover exceeded 5 %. We found that bird species foraged on pine (Pinus densata, 58 % more than it was available) and poplar (Populus davidiana, 41 %) in higher proportion to their availability, but that foraging success was highest on fir (Abies spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), willow (Salix spp.) and Chinese Larch (Larix potaninii). Our findings suggest that, although conservation is not a primary management goal of Tibetan sacred forests, these lands harbor critical habitat features for forest breeding birds of the Chinese Himalaya.


Breeding birds China Foraging Habitat selection Himalaya Yunnan 



We would like to thank L.-X. Han, Z. Fang, W.Y. Song and M. Haynes, and the Shangrila Alpine Botanical Garden for guidance and help in collecting the breeding bird and habitat characteristic data. This work was supported by NSF IGERT Grant No. DGE-0549369, a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship and an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Enhancement Program Grant.

Supplementary material

10531_2014_795_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1268 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric M. Wood
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jodi S. Brandt
    • 1
    • 3
  • Anna M. Pidgeon
    • 1
  • Volker C. Radeloff
    • 1
  1. 1.SILVIS Lab, Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Cornell Lab of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Studies ProgramDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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