Structure and organization of an Amazonian forest bird community
To help fill the gap in detailed knowledge of avian community structure in tropical forests, we undertook a census of a 97-ha plot of floodplain forest in Amazonian Peru. The plot was censused over a 3-mo period spanning the 1982 breeding season. The cooperative venture entailed ≈12 person-months of effort. Conventional spot-mapping was the principal method used, but several additional methods were required to estimate the numbers of non-territorial and group-living species: direct counts of the members of mixed flocks, saturation mist-netting of the entire plot, opportunistic visual registrations at fruiting trees, determination of the average size of parrot flocks, color banding of colonial icterids, etc. Two hundred forty-five resident species were found to hold territories on the plot, or to occupy all or part of it. Seventy-four additional species were detected as occasional-to-frequent visitors, wanderers from other habitats, or as migrants from both hemispheres. By superimposing territory maps or the areas of occupancy of individual species, we determined that point (alpha) diversities exceeded 160 species in portions of the plot. About 1910 individual birds nested in 100 ha of this floodplain forest, making up a biomass conservatively estimated at 190 kg/km2. The total number of breeding birds was equivalent to that in many temperate forests, but the biomass was about five times as great. Predominantly terrestrial granivores contributed the largest component of the biomass (39%), followed by largely arboreal frugivores (22%). Considering only insectivores, the biomass (34 kg/km2) is somewhat less than that in the forest at Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire (40 kg/km2), although it is greater (55 kg/km2) if one includes omnivores. The number of insectivores was considerably less than at Hubbard Brook, due to their 60% larger average body size (32 vs. 20 g). Even though a large majority of the species were patchily distributed, the 97-ha plot was found to include 99% of the bird species that regularly occupy mature floodplain forest at Cocha Cashu. The most abundant species occupied territories of 4-5 ha, and 84 species (26%) had population densities of ≤1 pair per square kilometre. Of these, 33 (10% of the total community) were judged to be constitutively rare (i.e., having low population densities everywhere), rather than being merely locally rare. Many of these are predicted to be vulnerable to forest fragmentation and disturbance. Comparison of these results with those from other tropical forests proved difficult due to a lack of standardized methodology.
Terborgh, J; Robinson, SK; Parker, TA; Munn, CA; Pierpont, N
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