PeerJ (Jan 2017)

A large-scale perspective for managing prairie avifauna assemblages across the western US: influences of habitat, land ownership and latitude

  • Victoria J. Dreitz,
  • Lani T. Stinson,
  • Beth A. Hahn,
  • Jason D. Tack,
  • Paul M. Lukacs

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5
p. e2879


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Future demands for increased food production are expected to have severe impacts on prairie biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. Prairie avifauna of North America have experienced drastic population declines, prompting numerous conservation efforts, which have been informed primarily by small-scale studies. We applied a large-scale perspective that integrates scale dependency in avian responses by analyzing observations of 20 prairie bird species (17 grassland obligates and three sagebrush obligate species) from 2009–2012 in the western prairie region of the United States. We employed a multi-species model approach to examine the relationship of land ownership, habitat, and latitude to landscape-scale species richness. Our findings suggest that patterns and processes influencing avian assemblages at the focal-scale (e.g., inference at the sampling unit) may not function at the landscape-scale (e.g., inference amongst sampling units). Individual species responses to land ownership, habitat and latitude were highly variable. The broad spatial extent of our study demonstrates the need to include lands in private ownership to assess biodiversity and the importance of maintaining habitat diversity to support avian assemblages. Lastly, focal-scale information can document species presence within a study area, but landscape-scale information provides an essential complement to inform conservation actions and policies by placing local biodiversity in the context of an entire region, landscape or ecosystem.