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Geographic locale and relative dominance patterns among North American passerine communities

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Numerous studies have addressed variation in the local occurrence and abundance of species, but only recently have investigators begun considering the influence of spatial context on community structure. We examined the influence of geographic position within a species’ range on its dominance (relative abundance) within the community. Our three primary questions were: 1) Does dominance within a community vary across a species’ range? 2) Do dominance-location trends differ between widely and narrowly distributed species? and 3) Does dominance within a guild vary across a species range? We examined 40 passerine species (20 widely distributed, 20 narrowly distributed) and their communities using North American Breeding Bird Survey data, of which, a subset of 11 species belonging to a single foraging guild were used for addressing guild effects. Data were gathered from communities at the center (10 locations) and periphery (10 locations) of each species’ range. Focal species were significantly less dominant at locations on the periphery of their ranges compared to central locations, and did not differ between widely and narrowly distributed species. In examining factors influencing these patterns, it was found that narrowly distributed species occur in communities of fewer individuals and fewer species compared to widely distributed species irrespective of locale. Within the foraging guild, dominance was also lower at the periphery than at the center of focal species’ ranges. However, guild abundance was also lower at the periphery of ranges while guild richness did not vary with locale. Specifically, focal species abundance decreased at a greater rate than abundance of other members of the foraging guild. Contrary to overall community data, widely distributed species were more dominant members of their guild at the center of their ranges. No significant patterns were found between distribution and guild dominance at the periphery of ranges.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2004

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