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1 March 2010 Avian Community Response to Grazing Intensity on Monoculture and Mixed Florida Pastures
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Monoculture and mixed pastures in Florida provide habitat for a variety of resident and migratory bird species. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effects of grazing on vegetation structure and bird species richness and abundance in grazed monoculture and mixed pastures. Study pasture units were subject to four cattle grazing intensities: 0  =  nongrazed (control), 15  =  low, 20  =  medium, or 35  =  high animal units (AU) per pasture unit (no cattle, 1.3, 1.0, and 0.6 ha · AU−1, on monoculture pastures and no cattle, 2.1, 1.6, and 0.9 ha · AU−1, on mixed pastures). Monoculture pastures displayed a greater decrease in spatial heterogeneity of the vegetative community in the presence of grazing than mixed pastures. An increase in grazing intensity led to declines in total avian species richness and abundance and species richness within short-distance migrant, neotropical migrant, and permanent resident guilds on monoculture pastures. Declines in total species richness and abundance and neotropical migrant guild species richness and abundance were observed on mixed pastures subject to increasing grazing intensity. However, species richness within short-distance migrant and urban guilds and abundance within the grassland guild increased on this pasture type in the presence of grazing. Loss of spatial heterogeneity typically results in a lack of suitable habitat for birds that occupy the extremes of the vegetation structure gradient. This can lead to a loss of species richness and abundance. For the majority of avian guilds, a low grazing intensity of 1.3 ha · AU−1 and 2.1 ha · AU−1 on monoculture and mixed pasture, respectively, is recommended to maintain abundance. However, these grazing intensities may result in declines in species richness. Ultimately, if a range of avian species are to be supported on monoculture and mixed pastures, spatial heterogeneity of plant structure and composition must be maintained.

Received: 23 June 2009; Accepted: 1 December 2009; Published: 1 March 2010

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