Biogeography of upland bird communities in the Peruvian Amazon

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2009-12

Authors

Pomara, Lazarus Yates

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Abstract

The western Amazon is known to be one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, yet information about the spatial distribution of that biodiversity and the processes governing its distribution remains scarce. An improved understanding of those biogeographic patterns and processes can inform conservation and development planning in areas where anthropogenic landscape change is ongoing. Spatial components of biodiversity are known to be influenced by historical and present-day physical and human geographic processes. There is evidence that major Amazonian rivers form the boundaries of biological regions, at least for birds. Other factors that may influence bird species composition include the dispersal limitations of individual species, forest plant species composition and structure, topography, forest fragmentation, and hunting. Sites where bird species composition was measured in this study represented mature, upland forest on both sides of the Amazon River, and a range of non-flooded forest types, as indicated by soil and plant surveys. Bird species compositional variation was closely correlated with variation in plant species composition, human disturbance associated with forest fragmentation, and position north or south of the Amazon River. The strongest differences were between opposite sides of the river, even though local environments, including plant composition, were not different on the two sides. This strongly suggests that historical biogeographic factors, rather than present-day environmental gradients, are responsible for bioregional boundaries at Amazonian rivers. The difference between plant and bird distributions at this scale underscores the pressing need to re-evaluate general notions of bioregional complexity and pattern in the Amazon basin. Locally, the influence of habitat fragmentation on animal communities, including reduced species richness, was confirmed. The influence of local floristic variation is of particular importance due to its ubiquity across western Amazonia. Thus, understanding the distributions of soils and vegetation is critical for explaining Amazonian animal diversity. The use of these factors to model bird community heterogeneity contradicts assumptions that the processes shaping Amazonian animal community diversity are too complex to measure efficiently, and their use contributes a new understanding of the dimensions of that diversity.

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