Title page for ETD etd-07272007-151106

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Blanc, Lori Ann
Author's Email Address lblanc@vt.edu
URN etd-07272007-151106
Title Experimental study of an avian cavity-nesting community: nest webs, nesting ecology, and interspecific interactions
Degree PhD
Department Biological Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Walters, Jeffery R. Committee Chair
Adler, Lynn S. Committee Member
Haas, Carola A. Committee Member
Jones, Robert H. Committee Member
Stauffer, Dean F. Committee Member
  • cavity-nester
  • ecosystem engineer
  • snag
  • structural equation modeling
  • red-cockaded woodpecker
  • Colaptes auratus
  • nest web
  • Picoides borealis
  • longleaf pine
  • northern flicker
  • endangered species management
  • indirect interaction
  • keystone species
Date of Defense 2007-07-17
Availability unrestricted
Cavity-nesting communities are structured by the creation of and competition for cavities as nest-sites. Viewing these communities as interconnected webs can help identify species interactions that influence community structure. This study examines cavity-nesting bird community interactions within the fire-maintained longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. In chapter 1, I provide a background review of the ecology of my study system. In chapter 2, I use nest webs to depict the flow of cavity-creation and use at Eglin. I identified 2 webs into which most species could be placed. One web contained 6 species associated with pines. The second web contained 5 species associated with hardwoods. Red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) and northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) created most cavities used by other species within this community. In chapter 3, I describe snag densities and nest-site selection of the cavity-nesting bird community at Eglin. Large, mature pine snags were abundant, exceeding other reported densities for southern pine forests. Pine snags were heavily-used, despite the abundance of available red-cockaded woodpecker cavities in living pine. Hardwood snags accounted for 10% of nests found, and were used by 12 of 14 species. Diameters of nest-trees and available snags were below the range of optimal nest-snag diameters reported in other studies, indicating the need for site-specific snag management guidelines. In chapter 4, I combine a study of basic ecological principles with endangered species management to examine interactions within the cavity-nesting bird community at Eglin. I used a nest web to identify a potential indirect interaction between the red-cockaded woodpecker and large secondary cavity-nesters, mediated by the northern flicker. I used structural equation modeling to test a path model of this interaction. By experimentally manipulating cavity availability, I blocked links described in the model, confirming cavity creation and enlargement as mechanisms that influence this indirect relationship. I demonstrated that a red-cockaded woodpecker cavity-management technique could disrupt this indirect relationship by affecting northern flicker behavior, and provided an empirical example of how, in interactive ecological communities, single-species management can have indirect effects on non-target species.
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