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Keywords:

  • Abundance;
  • bird conservation region;
  • breeding birds;
  • community dynamics;
  • detection probability;
  • ecoregions;
  • geographic scale;
  • habitat;
  • macroecology;
  • USA

Abstract

Aim  Based on a priori hypotheses, we developed predictions about how avian communities might differ at the edges vs. interiors of ecoregions. Specifically, we predicted lower species richness and greater local turnover and extinction probabilities for regional edges. We tested these predictions using North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data across nine ecoregions over a 20-year time period.

Location  Data from 2238 BBS routes within nine ecoregions of the United States were used.

Methods  The estimation methods used accounted for species detection probabilities < 1. Parameter estimates for species richness, local turnover and extinction probabilities were obtained using the program COMDYN. We examined the difference in community-level parameters estimated from within exterior edges (the habitat interface between ecoregions), interior edges (the habitat interface between two bird conservation regions within the same ecoregion) and interior (habitat excluding interfaces). General linear models were constructed to examine sources of variation in community parameters for five ecoregions (containing all three habitat types) and all nine ecoregions (containing two habitat types).

Results  Analyses provided evidence that interior habitats and interior edges had on average higher bird species richness than exterior edges, providing some evidence of reduced species richness near habitat edges. Lower average extinction probabilities and turnover rates in interior habitats (five-region analysis) provided some support for our predictions about these quantities. However, analyses directed at all three response variables, i.e. species richness, local turnover, and local extinction probability, provided evidence of an interaction between habitat and region, indicating that the relationships did not hold in all regions.

Main conclusions  The overall predictions of lower species richness, higher local turnover and extinction probabilities in regional edge habitats, as opposed to interior habitats, were generally supported. However, these predicted tendencies did not hold in all regions.