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The Influence of Summer Climate on Avian Community Composition in the Eastern Boreal Forest of Canada

Keywords: avian community , boreal forest , climate , multivariate analysis

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Understanding the relative influence of environmental variables, especially climate, in driving variation in species diversity is becoming increasingly important for the conservation of biodiversity. The objective of this study was to determine to what extent climate can explain the structure and diversity of forest bird communities by sampling bird abundance in homogenous mature spruce stands in the boreal forest of the Québec-Labrador peninsula using variance partitioning techniques. We also quantified the relationship among two climatic gradients, summer temperature and precipitation, and bird species richness, migratory strategy, and spring arrival phenology. For the bird community, climate factors appear to be most important in explaining species distribution and abundance because nearly 15% of the variation in the distribution of the 44 breeding birds selected for the analysis can be explained by climate. The vegetation variables we selected were responsible for a much smaller amount of the explained variation (4%). Breeding season temperature seems to be more important than precipitation in driving variation in bird species diversity at the scale of our analysis. Partial correlation analysis indicated that bird species richness distribution was determined by the temperature gradient, because the number of species increased with increasing breeding season temperature. Similar results were observed between breeding season temperature and the number of residents, short-distance and long-distance migrants, and early and late spring migrants. Our results suggest that the northern and southern range boundaries of species are not equally sensitive to the temperature gradient across the region.


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