Impacts of Forest Degradation on Avian Functional Diversity


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Recent research on the condition of New England forests has shown over 40% of stands in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are commercially degraded. These stands have lower commercial value driven by an increase in stocking of less desirable species such as American beech (Fagus grandifolia), aspen (Populus spp.), or balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and a decrease in trees of acceptable growing stock. The likely cause of this degradation is historical use of poor harvesting practices such as high grading, but the ecological impact of this degradation is unclear. Our study looks at the relationship between avian functional diversity and forest degradation. We conducted avian point count surveys to measure the relative abundance of bird species in stands that span five degradation categories in northern New England. For each bird species, we used physical, ecological, and behavioral traits to evaluate avian functional diversity along the degradation gradient. Specifically, we calculated mean functional distance across all traits for the entire bird community at each study site as well as for trait subsets associated with three ecosystem function axes: seed dispersal, pest control and nutrient cycling. We will also present results from ongoing analyses that evaluate how these three ecosystem functions might change across a degradation gradient. These findings help to understand the relationship between commercially degraded forests and biodiversity and identify potential management interventions needed to support ecosystem functions provided by the avian community and the ecosystem services they provide.


First Name Last Name
John Gunn
Mark Ducey
Rebecca Rowe
Michael Thompson

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Submission Details

Conference GRC
Event Graduate Research Conference
Department Natural Resources (GRC)
Group Poster Presentation
Added April 8, 2022, 8:41 a.m.
Updated April 8, 2022, 8:42 a.m.
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