Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Avian Use of Floodplain Forest Communities along the Upper Mississippi River
by Laaker, Dillan J., M.S., Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, 2018, 61; 10808741
Abstract (Summary)

Floodplain forests along the Upper Mississippi River are known to provide valuable habitat for many species of migrating songbirds, including the Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) and other species of concern. The forested islands of the confluence region where the Illinois and Missouri Rivers join the Mississippi vary greatly in their structure and composition, providing a variety of habitats for migrating bird species. While past studies have looked at the richness and diversity of bird species across gradients of forest structure, very few have determined which species are characteristic of certain forest types. Effective management and conservation of these lands by state and federal agencies requires that managers understand patterns of species use in these different forest communities. The objectives of this study were (1) to discover how bird community composition varies throughout the floodplain, (2) to determine which vegetation factors, structural or floristic, influence the composition of bird communities, and (3) to identify any species indicative of certain habitat types. Using a protocol developed through a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—St. Louis District, the Audubon Center at Riverlands, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 10 minute avian point count surveys were conducted from May 15 – June 30 at 95 survey points located throughout the forested areas of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain. Data collected during the 2017 surveys were added to point count data from the 2015 and 2016 survey seasons. An invaluable tool developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ forestry division, the Forest Management Geodatabase (FMG) was used to analyze structural complexity and vegetation characteristics at each avian point count site, including canopy height, basal area, tree species richness, and understory height. Differences in bird species richness across values of canopy height, basal area, understory height, and tree species richness were explored and tested using single-factor ANOVA. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) was used to summarize the pattern of avian community composition among sites and analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) tested for differences in avian communities among forest types. Bird species richness did not differ significantly across values of any of the four forest variables tested. NMDS and ANOSIM found that both canopy height and basal area significantly affected bird community composition while tree species richness and understory height had no effect. Indicator species analysis was then used to identify those species that characterized certain categories of canopy height and basal area. Indicator species analysis found 21 species to be indicators across four discreet categories of canopy height and 23 species to be indicators across 4 categories of basal area. Indicator species of note included five focal species: Indigo Bunting, Prothonotary Warbler, American Redstart, Warbling Vireo, and Red-shouldered Hawk. Warbling Vireos were indicators for sites with canopy heights less than 9 meters, while Prothonotary Warblers were characteristic of sites with the largest values of basal area (> 75 m 2/ha). These focal species are chosen by the Audubon Center at Riverlands and are deemed important to the region or species of concern, making them targets of conservation. The knowledge of bird species-habitat relationships gained from this study is critical for the successful management of floodplain forest in order to benefit Neotropical migratory bird species on the Upper Mississippi River System.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Minchin, Peter R.
Commitee: Essner, Richard L., Schulz, Kurt E.
School: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Department: Biological Sciences
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Management, Biology, Ecology
Keywords: Birds, Floodplain, Forest, Migration, Mississippi, Structure
Publication Number: 10808741
ISBN: 978-0-438-00946-2
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