Avian diversity in pine forests along an urban–rural/agriculture-wildland gradient
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To understand the role of pine forests in an urban/agricultural matrix for avian diversity conservation, we investigated how avian species richness (number of species) changes along an urban–rural/agriculture-wildland gradient. We conducted bird surveys and vegetation surveys in pine forests in central-east Georgia, during 2010–2011 breeding seasons. We classified an urban–rural/agriculture-wildland gradient into seven classes. We performed the rank analysis of covariance and pairwise comparisons (based on the overlap of 90 % confidence intervals). Significant differences in avian species richness were found among seven classes (P < 0.05). Species richness was lower in pine patches embedded in wildland matrix compared to those in urban and/or agricultural matrix. Lower diversity was associated with relatively low structural diversity of vegetation in pine patches within the wildland matrix. Although most results of pairwise comparisons were insignificant, species richness of shrub nesting species, migrant species, and pine-grassland species was higher at pine patches in a mixture of low level of urban and agricultural land use and/or in low level of agricultural land use. Our results suggest that while pine forests in wildland are crucial habitats for conservation-important species, pine forests in some human-altered landscapes may also play a positive role for avian diversity conservation.
KeywordsAgricultural land use Avian community Habitat heterogeneity Pine-grassland Richness Urban development
The project was primarily funded through the Piedmont CESU from the Department of Defense and McIntire-Stennis Project GEOZ 136. We would like to thank the Georgia Ornithological Society and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources for additional research grants. We thank Dr. Jeffrey Hepinstall-Cymerman and Dr. James Martin for their review and comments. We also thank all staff, especially, Robert Drumm and Paul Grimes at the Fort Gordon Natural Resources Branch for their help and support, field technicians for their hard work, and land owners for allowing us to access to sites under their ownership or management for this study.
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