Thresholds in forest bird occurrence as a function of the amount of early-seral broadleaf forest at landscape scales

TitleThresholds in forest bird occurrence as a function of the amount of early-seral broadleaf forest at landscape scales
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBetts, M. G., Hagar J. C., Rivers J. W., Alexander J. D., McGarigal Kevin M., and McComb B. C.
JournalEcological Applications
Pagination2116 - 2130
Date Published12/2010
Keywordsbroadleaf forest, early-seral forest, ecological thresholds, habitat loss, intensive forest management, landscape ecology, Oregon forest birds, segmented logistic regression, tree plantations

Recent declines in broadleaf-dominated, early-seral forest globally as a function of intensive forest management and/or fire suppression have raised concern about the viability of populations dependent on such forest types. However, quantitative information about the strength and direction of species associations with broadleaf cover at landscape scales are rare. Uncovering such habitat relationships is essential for understanding the demography of species and in developing sound conservation strategies. It is particularly important to detect points in habitat reduction where rates of population decline may accelerate or the likelihood of species occurrence drops rapidly (i.e., thresholds). Here, we use a large avian point-count data set (N = 4375) from southwestern and northwestern Oregon along with segmented logistic regression to test for thresholds in forest bird occurrence as a function of broadleaf forest and early-seral broadleaf forest at local (150-m radius) and landscape (500–2000-m radius) scales. All 12 bird species examined showed positive responses to either broadleaf forest in general, and/or early-seral broadleaf forest. However, regional variation in species response to these conditions was high. We found considerable evidence for landscape thresholds in bird species occurrence as a function of broadleaf cover; threshold models received substantially greater support than linear models for eight of 12 species. Landscape thresholds in broadleaf forest ranged broadly from 1.35% to 24.55% mean canopy cover. Early-seral broadleaf thresholds tended to be much lower (0.22–1.87%). We found a strong negative relationship between the strength of species association with early-seral broadleaf forest and 42-year bird population trends; species most associated with this forest type have declined at the greatest rates. Taken together, these results provide the first support for the hypothesis that reductions in broadleaf-dominated early-seral forest due to succession and intensive forest management have led to population declines of constituent species in the Pacific northwestern United States. Forest management treatments that maintain or restore even small amounts of broadleaf vegetation could mitigate further declines.