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The Effects of Changing Vegetative Composition on the Abundance, Species Diversity and Activity of Birds in the Chihuahuan Desert

A variety of mechanisms, both anthropogenic and natural, can lead to changes in the vegetation composition of a community. In semi- desert grasslands, for example, Schlesinger et al. (1990) suggested that overgrazing can result in desertification through a shift from primarily grasses to desert shrubs. Changes in plant communities can also occur as a result of introduced species, artificial watering, plant removal for human use, disease, competition, and prolonged drought. In the future, global problems, such as the greenhouse effect, could possibly lead to climate changes (and therefore changes in vegetation) that we can only attempt to predict. Changes in plant composition have the potential to cause disturbances in both structure and function throughout the ecosystem. One element of the ecosystem that could possibly be affected is bird diversity and behavior. Several studies such as Dixon (1959), Raitt and Pimm (1976), Naranjo and Raitt (1993), MacAurthur et al. (1962), Vander Wall and MacMahon (1984) and Raitt and Maze (1968), all suggest that certain species of birds depend more, or entirely, on habitats containing specific functional groups or species of vegetation. According to Naranjo and Raitt (1993), habitat preferences in birds develop because of factors such as availability of food, nesting and perching locations, and cover. Birds may utilize some plant species more than other plant species. Vander Wall and MacMahon (1984) suggest that some particular plant species are ideally suited to particular bird species. For example, the northern mockingbird relies on tall plants for perching and singing sites. Other plant species provide cover for birds like the Gambel's Quail. Certain species of birds may also use a wider variety of different plants because of broad habitat requirements. In this study we examine how different types of plant types and growth affect bird abundance, bird species diversity, and bird activity in the Chihuahuan desert.

Release Date
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Area
POINT (-106.74099731445 32.617000579834)
Creative Commons Attribution
Contact Name
Jornada Basin LTER
Contact Email
Public Access Level
Program Code
005:040 - Department of Agriculture - National Research
Bureau Code
005:18 - Agricultural Research Service
Source ID
Harvested from Geodata Harvest
Harvest Source TitleGeodata Harvest
Harvest Source URIhttps://geodata:NAL2geodata@2017@geodata.nal.usda.gov/geonetwork/srv/eng/csw
Last Harvest PerformedTue, 04/10/2018 - 13:22

Metadata Source

NAL Geospatial Catalog