We determined the effects of fire history and a riparian-upland gradient on the breeding bird community at Fort Bragg Military Installation in North Carolina, one of the largest remnant areas of the endangered longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem. Study sites were classified into two treatments: fire-intense (areas experiencing growing-season burns) and fire-suppressed (areas lacking fires). Within each treatment, bird and vegetation data were recorded at point-count stations positioned at three distances from streamhead pocosins to characterize the riparian-upland habitat gradient: 0, 75, and ???150 m. Total bird abundance and species richness varied significantly along the riparian-upland gradient, with pocosins contributing greatly to avian biodiversity. Our data revealed strong effects of fire history and riparian-upland gradient on bird species, which we described in terms of breeding-bird assemblages. Members of the open longleaf assemblage (e.g., Red-cockaded Woodpecker [Picoides borealis], Bachman's Sparrow [Aimophila aestivalis]) were most common in fire-intense areas and at upland locations. Members of the fire-suppressed assemblage (e.g., Wood Thrush [Hylocichla mustelina], Ovenbird [Seiurus aurocapilla]) were confined to pocosins in fire-intense areas, but became more abundant in fire-suppressed areas. Members of the pocosin assemblage (e.g., Eastern Towhee [Pipilo erythropthalamus], Common Yellowthroat [Geothlypis trichas]) were largely confined to pocosins and, in some cases, were most abundant in fire-intense pocosins. Fire suppression increased structural diversity of vegetation and promoted one breeding-bird assemblage (fire-suppressed), but at the expense of two others (open longleaf, pocosin). Continued management of Fort Bragg to promote longleaf pine restoration is essential for supporting conservation of the open-longleaf bird assemblage; in addition, it will benefit the pocosin assemblage. ?? The American Ornithologists' Union, 2006.
Additional publication details
Associations of breeding birds with fire-influenced and riparian-upland gradients in a longleaf pine ecosystem