Evaluating the effectiveness of overstory cover as a surrogate for bird community diversity and population trends

J. C. Pierson, A. Mortelliti, P. S. Barton, P. W. Lane, D. B. Lindenmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Landscape features are often used as surrogates for biodiversity. While landscape features may perform well as surrogates for coarse metrics of biodiversity such as species richness, their value for monitoring population trends in individual species is virtually unexplored. We compared the performance of a proposed habitat surrogate for birds, percentage cover of vegetation overstory, for two distinct aspects of bird assemblages: community diversity (i.e. species richness) and population trends. We used four different long-term studies of open woodland habitats to test the consistency of the relationship between overstory percentage cover and bird species richness across a large spatial extent (>1000 km) in Australia. We then identified twelve bird species with long-term time-series data to test the relationship between change in overstory cover and populations trends. We found percentage cover performed consistently as a surrogate for species richness in three of the four sites. However, there was no clear pattern in the performance of change in percentage cover as a surrogate for population trends. Four bird species exhibited a significant relationship with change in percentage overstory cover in one study, but this was not found across multiple studies. These results demonstrate a lack of consistency in the relationship between change in overstory cover and population trends among bird species, both within and between geographic regions. Our study demonstrates that biodiversity surrogates representing community-level metrics may be consistent across regions, but provide only limited information about individual species population trends. Understanding the limitations of the information provided by a biodiversity surrogate can inform the appropriate context for its application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-798
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Indicators
Volume61
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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