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Keywords:

  • avian communities;
  • channelization;
  • floodplain forests;
  • habitat modelling;
  • wetland management

Abstract

Channelization of streams associated with floodplain forested wetlands has occurred extensively throughout the world and specifically in the southeastern United States. Channelization of fluvial systems alters the hydrologic and sedimentation processes that sustain these systems. In western Tennessee, channelization and past land-use practices have caused drastic geomorphic and hydrologic changes, resulting in altered habitat conditions that may affect avian communities. The objective of this study was to determine if there were differences in avian communities utilizing floodplain forests along unchannelized streams compared to channelized streams with valley plugs, areas where sediment has completely filled the channel. During point count surveys, 58 bird species were observed at unchannelized sites and 60 species were observed at valley plug sites. Species associated with baldcypress-tupelo (Taxodium-Nyssa) swamps (e.g. Great Egret (Ardea albus) and Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)) and mature hardwood forests with open midstories (e.g. Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens), Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons), Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) and Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)) were either only found at unchannelized sites or were more abundant at unchannelized sites. Conversely, species associated with open and early successional habitats (e.g. Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) and Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)) were either only found at valley plug sites or were more abundant at valley plug sites. Results of habitat modelling suggest that the habitat characteristics of floodplain forests at unchannelized sites are more suitable for Neotropical migrant bird species of conservation concern in the region than at valley plug sites. This study, in combination with previous research, demonstrates the ecological impacts of valley plugs span across abiotic and biotic processes and tropic levels. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.