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Avian community changes following drought-induced canopy collapse in a Mediterranean-type forest

Smithies, S., Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851, Bateman, P.W., Hardy, G.E.St.J. and Dundas, S.J. (2022) Avian community changes following drought-induced canopy collapse in a Mediterranean-type forest. Pacific Conservation Biology . Online Early.

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Context: Extreme drought can result in the widespread die-off of forests and dramatically altered ecosystem structure. Such changes are likly to influence fauna using resouces within these forests.

Aims: Following a record hot and dry year/summer in 2010/11, large-scale canopy collapse occurred within a Mediterranean-type mixed jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata)–marri (Corymbia calophylla) forest in south-west Western Australia. We investigated the effects of this collapse on bird assemblages in 2016, 5 years after the initial collapse.

Methods: We carried out bird surveys using a standardised search method for five paired drought-affected and adjacent healthy forest plots.

Key results: A total of 3042 records of 51 bird species were observed across all surveys. Overall, the pooled (mean ± s.d.) reporting rates for drought-affected plots (13.84 ± 0.60 individuals/survey) were significantly less than the reporting rates for healthy plots (34.44 ± 1.03 individuals/survey) (PERMANOVA: F1 = 54.94, R2 = 0.31, P = 0.001). Species diversity was also higher in healthy plots (t26 = 11.21, P < 0.001). Foliage-searching birds were the most abundant guild across all plots and were reported less often in drought-affected plots (t6 = 2.70, P < 0.04).

Conclusions: Drought-affected jarrah forest plots exhibited significant differences in bird assemblages compared to healthy plots. Overall, the drought-affected forest provides a less favourable habitat for birds compared to healthy forest.

Implications: With marked variability and extreme climate events predicted for the future, understanding the impacts of such changes will contribute to how we manage forest ecosystems.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)).
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