Date of this Version
Ecology and Evolution. 2018;8:6909–6920.
Relationships between avian diversity and habitat area are assumed to be positive; however, often little attention has given to how these relationships can be influenced by the habitat structure or quality. In addition, other components of biodiversity, such as functional diversity, are often overlooked in assessing habitat patch value. In the Sandhills Ecoregion of Georgia, USA, we investigated the relationship between avian species richness and functional diversity, forest basal area, and patch size in pine forests using basal area as a surrogate for overstory structure which in turn impacts vegetation structure and determines habitat quality within a patch. We conducted bird surveys in planted mature pine stands, during breeding season of 2011. We used three classes of stand basal area (BA): OS, overstocked (BA ≥ 23 m2/ha); FS, fully/densely stocked (13.8 m2/ha ≤ BA < 23 m2/ha); and MS, moderately stocked (2.3 m2/ha ≤ BA < 13.8 m2/ha). MS patches showed more structural diversity due to higher herbaceous vegetation cover than other two pine stocking classes of patches. Total species richness and functional richness increased with the size of MS patches, whereas functional divergence decreased with the size of OS patches (p < 0.05). Functional richness tended to be lower than expected as the size of OS patches increased. Greater richness of pine–grassland species was also found at MS patches. Percent cover of MS patches within a landscape influenced positively the richness of pine–grassland species (p < 0.05). Our results suggest that (a) avian species–habitat area relationship can be affected by habitat quality (structural diversity) and varies depending on diversity indices considered, and (b) it is important to maintain moderate or low levels of pine basal area and to preserve large-sized patches of the level of basal area to enhance both taxonomic and functional diversity in managed pine forests.