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Monday, February 6 • 4:00pm - 4:20pm
Symposia Session - S3: Ecology of the Missouri National Recreational River. Bird-Habitat Relationships in Floodplain Forests Along the Middle Missouri River

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AUTHORS: Christopher L. Merkord, South Dakota State University; Mark D. Dixon, University of South Dakota; David L. Swanson, University of South Dakota

ABSTRACT: River floodplains historically provided much of the forested land cover in the northern Great Plains, most of it dominated by cottonwoods. Inundation by reservoirs, changes in land use, and alterations of water and sediment flow regimes, however, have combined to result in a sharp loss of forest and shrubland habitat, particularly of early successional habitat, likely with concomitant declines in populations of forest-associated wildlife species. Despite the grave future facing floodplain forests in this region, relatively little research has been devoted to understanding the ecology of wildlife species dependent on these forests. Here we seek to remedy this knowledge gap by identifying the bird species most sensitive to changes in floodplain forest structure, species composition, and landscape context along the middle Missouri River. We evaluated the response of a suite of forest bird species to variation in vegetation structure, forest type (cottonwood vs. non-cottonwood), and landscape metrics such as patch size using data on bird abundance in 76 forest patches in the Missouri River floodplain in South Dakota and Nebraska. We modeled bird abundance using binomial N-mixture models and explored bird community species composition in relation to environmental parameters using non-metric multidimensional scaling. We found that bird community composition varied primarily with forest age but also with forest type. In early-successional stands, Bell's Vireos and Orchard Orioles were associated with sparse stands with small stems, while in mid- to late-successional stands, American Redstarts, Brown Thrashers, and Eastern Wood-Pewees were associated with higher relative density of cottonwood trees. Our results highlight the importance of maintaining a floodplain landscape with a heterogeneous mosaic of cottonwood forest stands of various ages and provide land managers with valuable information on habitat use by many of the most iconic bird species of floodplain cottonwood forests.

Monday February 6, 2017 4:00pm - 4:20pm
Grand Ballroom A

Attendees (5)