Diversity and structure of avian communities in extensive lowland pine forests in relation to the distance from the forest edge

  • G. Kopij Wrocław University of Environmental & Life Sciences
Keywords: community ecology; edge effect; population density


Most studies on edge effect are related to the forest-field edge, i.e. to the ecotone. However, there is a lack of studies attempting to investigate the effect of the distance from the forest/field edge on the avian communities in large continuous forests. The purpose of this study was to investigate this issue. The study area comprised a continuous coniferous forest, the so called Niemodlin Forest, situated in Opole Silesia, SW Poland. The line transect method has been employed in this study. In total, 54 breeding bird species were recorded. On particular 0.5 km section, the numbers varied from 34 to 48. Both the number of species and number of breeding pairs only slightly decreased with the distance from the forest/field edge. Overall, the differences between the mean densities of breeding species on 10 sections were not statistically significant. The Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs was by far the most numerous bird species, recorded as eudominant in 164 out of 165 sections. The Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Willow Warbler Phyloscopus trochilus and Blackap Sylvia atricapilla were dominants in all 10 sections, while the Blackbird Turdus merula dominated in nine (90%) and the Robin Erithacus rubecula in eight (80%) sections. The communal dominance slightly increased, but the number of dominant species and Pielou’s Evenness Index remained stable with the increase of the distance from the forest/field edge. While Shannon’s Diversity Index remained constant, Simpson’s Diversity Index decreased markedly with the increase in distance from the forest/field edge. The proportion of long-distance migrants slightly decreased, while that of short-distance migrants and residents remained constant with the increase in the distance from the forest/field edge. Strikingly, no such changes in the proportion of all feeding guilds were shown. More than half of all breeding bird species show a negative correlation between population density and the distance from the forest/field edge. The dominance of some species decreased with the increase of the distance from the forest/field edge: Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, Starling Sturnus vulgaris, Blue Tit Parusa caeruleus, Raven Corvus corax, Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus, and Wood Lark Lullula arborea. With the exception of the Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, the clearcuts in this study, not only failed to increase, but most probably caused a decrease in the number of both species and individuals. It is because clearing not only creates edges, but also causes loss of forest habitat and often results in forest fragmentation. Edge and area effect may in fact interact, in such way that the edge effect may drive out the area effect, causing the increase.


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