Threshold responses of grassland and sagebrush birds to patterns of disturbance created by an ecosystem engineer
- 63 Downloads
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
KeywordsMountain plover Grasshopper sparrow Brewer’s sparrow Sage thrasher Rangeland Community Ecotone
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.
- 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
- Andrewartha HG, Birch LC (1954) The distribution and abundance of animals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- 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
- BirdLife International (2017) Charadrius montanus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017Google Scholar
- Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and Multi-model inference: a practical-theoretical approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Canfield RH (1941) Application of the line intercept method in sampling range vegetation. J Forest 39:388–394Google Scholar
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Graul WD (1975) Breeding biology of the mountain plover. Wilson Bull 87:6–31Google Scholar
- 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
- Hoogland JL (1995) The black-tailed prairie dog: social life of a burrowing mammal. The University of Chicago Press, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Legendre P, Legendre L (1998) Numerical ecology, 2nd edn. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Ruckelshaus Institute (2017) Thunder basin National Grassland collaboration report. University of Wyoming, LaramieGoogle Scholar
- Seery D, Matiatos D (2000) Response of wintering buteos to plague epizootics in prairie dogs. West North Am Nat 60:420–425Google Scholar
- Shackford JS (1996) The importance of shade to breeding mountain plovers. Bull Oklahoma Ornithol Soc 29:17–21Google Scholar
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Wood S, Scheipl F (2017) gamm4: Generalized additive mixed models using ‘mgcv’ and ‘lme4’. R package version 0.2–5Google Scholar
- 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