Changing landscapes and the cosmopolitism of the eastern Colorado avifauna

Wildlife Society Bulletin


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The avifauna of continental North America has changed dramatically since colonial times. Excessive hunting contributed, at least in part, to the extinction of birds such as the great auk (Pinguinus impennis) and passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), while more recently organochlorine insecticide residues have resulted in drastic reductions in numbers of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) (Anderson et al. 1975) and other species. Generally, however, vertebrate populations change in direct response to changes in their habitats. For example, herring gulls (Larus argentatus) have increased in numners (Kadlec and Drury 1968) with urbanization of the New England coastline, in the same locations formerly occupied by the extinct heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido). Also, passerine birds of forest interiors have declined in numbers with fragmentation of the eastern deciduous forest into small stands; this fragmentation has led to increases in numbers of edge species (Robbins 1979, Ambuel and Temple 1983). Even subtle community shifts can introduce new competitive processes that can augment population changes among species (Brittingham and Temple 1983). Such studies of broad-scale changes in vegetative communities and their influence on native wildlife species have fostered the recent topical emphasis on "conservation biology" (Soule and Wilcox 1980, Soule 1985) and "landscape ecology" (Burgess and Sharpe 1981, Harris 1984:25-43). As changes in landscapes are causing subtle (but potentially dramatic) changes in the distribution of native species, conservation biologists are finding that mere presence-absence data on populations, or even accurate information on reproductive success, is inadequate to evaluate management activities or environmental perturbations. The principles of "conservation genetics" are attracting interest in the management of natural preserves especially (Schonewald-Cox et al. 1983).

Changing patterns in landscape complexion or genetic makeup of a population are difficult to detect locally. Contemporary issues in the conservation of native species demand regional and continental perspectives (Samson and Knopf 1982). Thus, management activities at specific sites are often viewed as short-sighted by planners and conservation critics. This paper illustrates how these contemporary theories can influence a local conservation perspective. That perspective is developed around historical processes that have led to cosmopolitism of the local avifauna on the Colorado Division of Wildlife's South Platte Wildlife Management Area (SPWMA) near Crook, Colorado.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Changing landscapes and the cosmopolitism of the eastern Colorado avifauna
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 14
Issue 2
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Publisher location Bethesda, MD
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Wildlife Society Bulletin
First page 132
Last page 142
Country United States
State Colorado
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