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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 27;108(52):21134-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118276108. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Resilience and stability in bird guilds across tropical countryside.

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  • 1Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The consequences of biodiversity decline in intensified agricultural landscapes hinge on surviving biotic assemblages. Maintaining crucial ecosystem processes and services requires resilience to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. However, the resilience and stability of surviving biological communities remain poorly quantified. From a 10-y dataset comprising 2,880 bird censuses across a land-use gradient, we present three key findings concerning the resilience and stability of Costa Rican bird communities. First, seed dispersing, insect eating, and pollinating guilds were more resilient to low-intensity land use than high-intensity land use. Compared with forest assemblages, bird abundance, species richness, and diversity were all ~15% lower in low-intensity land use and ~50% lower in high-intensity land use. Second, patterns in species richness generally correlated with patterns in stability: guilds exhibited less variation in abundance in low-intensity land use than in high-intensity land use. Finally, interspecific differences in reaction to environmental change (response diversity) and possibly the portfolio effect, but not negative covariance of species abundances, conferred resilience and stability. These findings point to the changes needed in agricultural production practices in the tropics to better sustain bird communities and, possibly, the functional and service roles that they play.

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