Distribution of Breeding Birds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Title: Distribution of Breeding Birds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Author: Shriner, Susan Ann
Advisors: Theodore R. Simons, Chair
Jaime A. Collazo, Member
Martha J. Groom, Member
Scott M. Pearson, Member
Kenneth H. Pollock, Member
Abstract: We assessed the utility of developing predictive models of species distribution within a large contiguous forest based solely on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data. We conducted more than 7000 point count surveys of breeding birds at approximately 4000 locations throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). We combined these empirical data with habitat, topographic, and location variables to develop logistic regression models for 20 breeding bird species. The mean of observed points correctly classified for evaluation data was 74.3% with a range of 67.4% to 83.1%. Mean improvement in model classification rates with the addition of a trend surface was 0.9% with a range of -0.4% to 2.0%. We also assessed the importance of controlling for differences in species detectability in different vegetation types. Comparisons of models based on unlimited radius plot data with models based on fixed width plot data that minimized detectability differences between vegetation types showed classification rates dropped an average of 0.9% with a range of -3.8% to 3.7% for fixed width plots. In the eastern U.S., invasion of hemlock wooly adelgid (Homoptera: Adelgidae: Adelges tsugae) is transforming species composition of native forests by causing extensive mortality in eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) populations. We assessed the potential effects of hemlock loss in GSMNP by evaluating current hemlock distribution and abundance patterns and identifying environmental correlates of hemlock presence. We investigated potential effects of hemlock mortality on the park's avifauna by identifying bird species associated with hemlock. Our results indicate hemlock is widespread in all vegetation strata at low and mid elevations and is the second most common tree species in the park. Hemlock presence is significantly associated with elevation, total relative moisture index, disturbance history, vegetation type, and bedrock geology. Sixteen of 30 common breeding bird species showed significant correlations with hemlock presence. Hemlock loss will favor increased abundance of avian species associated with early successional and disturbed habitats and reduced abundance of avian species associated with late successional forests.We compared breeding bird community structure and composition in old growth and mature second growth (65-100 years old) forests in the southern Appalachians using paired point count. We found few differences in the two communities. Comparisons of relative abundance based on counts of individual bird species showed two species were significantly more abundant on old growth sites and one species was significantly more abundant on second growth sites. After incorporating differential detectability into relative abundance estimates, we found that 4 breeding bird species were significantly more abundant in old growth sites compared to second growth sites and that no breeding bird species was significantly more abundant in second growth sites. These results highlight the importance of incorporating detectability measures into sampling and analytic methods. Analysis of vegetation samples for the paired sites showed significant differences between old growth and second growth sites. Old growth sites had significantly more large trees for classes > 50 cm diameter at breast height. Vegetation composition comparisons showed old growth sites had significantly more late successional species and significantly fewer species associated with early successional forests. Nonetheless, measures of species richness, relative abundance, and number of standing snags did not differ between old growth and second growth sites. Breeding bird composition similarities between old growth and second growth sites in this study may not be typical of more fragmented landscapes because large remaining patches of old growth forest adjacent to second growth sites may ameliorate differences between the two habitats.
Date: 2002-01-22
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Zoology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3748


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