Springtime bird diversity on the Domain of The University of the South: An Investigation of Exurbanization and its impact on the University's avian population
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The focus of this two-year project was to uncover a relationship between exurbanization and the avian population on the Domain of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Exurbanization involves the movement of housing developments into areas that were previously undeveloped. Often this involves the destruction of native forests, which are common along the Cumberland Plateau, where Sewanee, Tennessee is located. This study utilized various statistical methods to interpret data from the spring seasons of 2008 and 2009. The goal of this data analysis was to better understand our hypothesis that exurban regions will witness higher species richness, greater evenness, and that both exurban and forested regions will exhibit community similarities. Additionally, data provided by local colleagues allowed us to hypothesize that spring and summertime bird species richness will have some degree of correlation. By comparing the alpha diversity of exurban and forested habitats in spring of 2008 and 2009, the results indicate that exurban environments have higher per point diversity. Further data analysis of the species accumulation curves in exurban versus forested environments reveals that the curve for forested environments rise faster. Neither curve, however, levels off suggesting that the forested and exurban regions were not fully sampled resulting in no definitive conclusion to be reached. This study did find that forested environments exhibit higher species evenness. There was no specific bird species that dominated the region. In exurban areas, several species, such as the Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Common Grackle, and Tufted Titmouse constituted a large portion of the recorded species. Detrended correspondence analyses (DCA) of the 2008 and 2009 springtime data displayed a clustering of species in exurban and forested habitats with only small areas of overlap showing a community relationship between exurban and forested habitats. The last part of our hypothesis, attempting to reveal a relationship between spring and summertime birds, revealed no significant correlation.
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