We used an ordination approach to identify factors important to the organization of breeding bird communities in three floodplains: Cache River, Arkansas (AR), Iatt Creek, Louisiana (LA), and the Coosawhatchie River, South Carolina (SC), USA. We used 5-min point counts to sample birds in each study area each spring from 1995 to 1998, and measured ground-surface elevations and a suite of other habitat variables to investigate bird distributions and community characteristics in relation to important environmental gradients. In both AR and SC, the average number of Neotropical migrant species detected was lowest in semipermanently flooded Nyssa aquatica Linnaeus habitats and greatest in the highest elevation floodplain zone. Melanerpes carolinus Linnaeus, Protonotaria citrea Boddaert, Quiscalus quiscula Linnaeus, and other species were more abundant in N. aquatica habitats, whereas Wilsonia citrina Boddaert, Oporornis formosus Wilson, Vireo griseus Boddaert, and others were more abundant in drier floodplain zones. In LA, there were no significant differences in community metrics or bird species abundances among forest types. Canonical correspondence analyses revealed that structural development of understory vegetation was the most important factor affecting bird distributions in all three study areas; however, potential causes of these structural gradients differed. In AR and SC, differences in habitat structure were related to the hydrologic gradient, as indexed by ground-surface elevation. In LA, structural variations were related mainly to the frequency of canopy gaps. Thus, bird communities in all three areas appeared to be organized primarily in response to repeated localized disturbance. Our results suggest that regular disturbance due to flooding plays an important role in structuring breeding bird communities in floodplains subject to prolonged inundation, whereas other agents of disturbance (e.g., canopy gaps) may be more important in headwater systems subject to only short-duration flooding. Management for avian community integrity in these systems should strive to maintain forest zonation and natural disturbance regimes. ?? 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Ordination of breeding birds in relation to environmental gradients in three southeastern United States floodplain forests