Representation of Landcover Along Breeding Bird Survey Routes in the Northern Plains



ABSTRACT  The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is used extensively to make inferences about populations of many North American bird species and is increasingly being used for avian conservation planning. How well BBS routes represent the landscape is poorly known, even though accuracy of representation could significantly affect inferences made from BBS data. We used digital landcover data to examine how well landcover within 400-m buffers around BBS routes represented the surrounding landscape (the route neighborhood) for 52 routes in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota. Differences in composition between landcover along BBS routes and the route neighborhood were not statistically significant for upland cover classes. The area of temporary and seasonal wetland basins was accurately represented by BBS routes in our study area, but the area of semipermanent and permanent wetland basins was significantly underrepresented along BBS routes. Number of wetland basins and upland patches was higher along routes. Area of urban, forest, and hay landcover classes was higher along routes, although differences were not statistically significant. Amount of bias in landcover representation was negatively correlated with the proportion of each landcover type in the study area, but bias was not correlated with area of the route neighborhoods. Differences between landcover along BBS routes and the route neighborhood were primarily attributable to increased anthropogenic activity along roads and siting of roads away from relatively large, deep water bodies. Our results suggest that inferences made from BBS data in our study region are likely biased for species that are associated with deeper-water habitats or are strongly influenced by landscape fragmentation. Inferences made from BBS data for species associated with uplands or shallow wetlands are less likely to be biased because of differences in landcover composition.