Managers of landscapes dedicated to forest commodity production require information about how practices influence biological diversity. Individual species and communities may be threatened if management practices truncate or simplify forest age classes that are essential for reproduction and survival. For instance, the degradation and loss of complex diverse forest in young age classes have been associated with declines in forest-associated Neotropical migrant bird populations in the Pacific Northwest, USA. These declines may be exacerbated by intensive forest management practices that reduce hardwood and broadleaf shrub cover in order to promote growth of economically valuable tree species in plantations.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We used a Bayesian hierarchical model to evaluate relationships between avian species richness and vegetation variables that reflect stand management intensity (primarily via herbicide application) on 212 tree plantations in the Coast Range, Oregon, USA. Specifically, we estimated the influence of broadleaf hardwood vegetation cover, which is reduced through herbicide applications, on bird species richness and individual species occupancy. Our model accounted for imperfect detection. We used average predictive comparisons to quantify the degree of association between vegetation variables and species richness. Both conifer and hardwood cover were positively associated with total species richness, suggesting that these components of forest stand composition may be important predictors of alpha diversity. Estimates of species richness were 35–80% lower when imperfect detection was ignored (depending on covariate values), a result that has critical implications for previous efforts that have examined relationships between forest composition and species richness.
Conclusion and Significance
Our results revealed that individual and community responses were positively associated with both conifer and hardwood cover. In our system, patterns of bird community assembly appear to be associated with stand management strategies that retain or increase hardwood vegetation while simultaneously regenerating the conifer cover in commercial tree plantations.