Authors

Julie E. Blum '15, Gettysburg College

Andrew M. Wilson, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Presentation

Date of Creation

4-2015

Department

Environmental Studies

Abstract

The eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a vital foundation tree species throughout the eastern United States, providing essential structural diversity and habitat for more than 120 different animal species. Within the past few decades, T. canadensis has undergone significant declines that are largely associated with the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae), an exotic, aphid-like insect native to East Asia. From the 1970s to present day, the HWA has spread throughout southern New England, large portions of the Mid-Atlantic region, and parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas. Research has shown that loss of the eastern hemlock is drastically altering forest community structures, potentially impacting a wide variety of forest fauna, including avian populations strongly associated with hemlock forests. Here we present research investigating the correlation between HWA prevalence and recent declines of hemlock-associated forest birds in the Eastern US. We analyzed bird population trends data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), US Forest Service HWA data, and land cover data to analyze the population trends of hemlock-associated and forest generalist species in association with the arrival of HWA, taking hemlock density into account. We found a significant correlation between the timing of HWA arrival and declines of conifer forest specialist birds. The Black-throated Green Warbler and the Blue-headed Vireo exhibited significant decline along survey routes after HWA arrival. Populations of some forest generalists (Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch) were unaffected and continued to increase linearly, while others (Red-Eyed Vireo, Ovenbird) showed minor decrease in population.

Comments

This presentation was given at the Annual Conference Mid-Atlantic Chapter Ecological Society of America, Elizabethtown College, PA, 17th-19th April 2015.

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