Longitudinal Trends of Bird Community Richness and Abundance over Fifteen Years in the Northern Reaches of the Sonoran Desert
Boehme, Cameron S.
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Although many studies have identified environmental factors as primary drivers of bird richness and abundance, there is still uncertainty about the extent to which climate, topography and vegetation influence richness and abundance patterns seen in local extents of the northern Sonoran Desert. I investigated how bird richness and abundance differed between years and seasons and which environmental variables most influenced the patterns of richness and abundance in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. I compiled a geodatabase of climate, bioclimatic (interactions between precipitation and temperature), vegetation, soil, and topographical variables that are known to influence both richness and abundance and used 15 years of bird point count survey data from urban and nonurban sites established by Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project to test that relationship. I built generalized linear models (GLM) to elucidate the influence of each environmental variable on richness and abundance values taken from 47 sites. I used principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce 43 environmental variables to 9 synthetic factors influenced by measures of vegetation, climate, topography, and energy. I also used the PCA to identify uncorrelated raw variables and modeled bird richness and abundance with these uncorrelated environmental variables (EV) with GLM. I found that bird richness and abundance were significantly different between seasons, but that richness and winter abundance were not significantly different across years. Bird richness was most influenced by soil characteristics and vegetation while abundance was most influenced by vegetation and climate. Models using EV as independent variables consistently outperformed those models using synthetically produced components from PCA. The results suggest that richness and abundance are both driven by climate and aspects of vegetation that may also be influenced by climate such as total annual precipitation and average temperature of the warmest quarter. Annual oscillations of bird richness and abundance throughout the urban Phoenix area seem to be strongly associated with climate and vegetation.
CIVINS (Civilian Institutions) Thesis document
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