Trade-offs relating to grassland and forest mine reclamation approaches in the central Appalachian region and implications for the songbird community
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Avian Conservation and Ecology
Surface mining in the Appalachian region (USA) converts large areas of mature forest to early successional habitat. This shift in landscape structure has the potential to reduce habitat availability and suitability for forest-dwelling songbirds by reducing and fragmenting mature forest, but also to increase habitat availability for grassland- and shrubland-associated songbirds. We examined the influence of mountaintop mining/valley fill (MTMVF) reclamation habitats (grassland, shrubland, and remnant forest) on songbird community composition and abundance at three former MTMVF mines in southwestern West Virginia, relative to intact forest. We quantified the songbird community in 1999 and 2000 using point counts arranged throughout the mine complexes to assess landscape composition of the songbird community. Community analysis showed songbirds had strong associations with their respective guild based on species habitat preferences. Although remnant and intact forest treatments had similar species compositions, the forest interior guild had greater richness in intact rather than remnant forest. Total species richness was greatest in the reclaimed shrubland treatment. Focal species analysis followed similar trends as community assessments, because most species abundances within treatment types were strongly associated with species habitat preferences. Our results indicate that reclamation habitat decisions, i.e., grasslands versus forests, can have large effects on avian community composition. Determining appropriate mine restoration actions depends on the suite of species desired for long-term occupancy and their conservation priority.
Margenau, Eric L.; Wood, Petra B.; Weakland, Cathy A.; Brown, Donald J. 2019. Trade-offs relating to grassland and forest mine reclamation approaches in the central Appalachian region and implications for the songbird community. Avian Conservation and Ecology. 14(1) 2. 14 p. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-01304-140102.