RIPARIAN AREA, NOT FRAGMENTATION, IS ASSOCIATED WITH BREEDING BIRD SPECIES RICHNESS IN THE GREAT BASIN, USA
|Frank A Fogarty; Cal Poly Humboldt; firstname.lastname@example.org; Jian Yen, Erica Fleishman, Rahel Sollmann, Alison Ke
The associations of habitat area and fragmentation with species richness long have been major topics within community ecology. Recent discussion has focused on properly assessing fragmentation independent of habitat area, and on whether fragmentation has significant negative or positive associations with species richness. We created a novel, multiple-region, N-mixture community model (MNCM) to examine the relations of riparian area and fragmentation with species richness of breeding birds in mountain ranges within the Great Basin, Nevada, USA. Our MNCM accounts for imperfect detection in count data at the survey-point level while allowing comparisons of species richness among regions in which those points are embedded. We used individual canyons within mountain ranges as regions in our model and measured riparian area and the normalized landscape shape index, a metric of fragmentation that is independent of total riparian area. We found that riparian area, but not its fragmentation, was a primary predictor of canyon-level species richness of both riparian obligates and all bird species. The relation between riparian area and riparian-obligate species richness was nonlinear: canyons with ~25 ha woody riparian vegetation had relatively high species richness, whereas species richness was considerably lower in canyons with <25 ha. Projections of future riparian contraction suggested that decreases in species richness are likely to be greatest in canyons that currently have moderate (~10-25 ha) amounts of riparian vegetation. Our results suggest that if a goal of management is to maximize the species richness of breeding birds in montane areas in the Great Basin, it may be more effective to focus on maximizing total riparian area rather than minimizing riparian fragmentation, and that canyons with at least moderate amounts of riparian vegetation should be prioritized.