Rowhani, P, Lepczyk, CA, Linderman, MA, Pidgeon, AM, Radeloff, VC, Culbert, PD, Lambin, EF (2008). Variability in energy influences avian distribution patterns across the USA. ECOSYSTEMS, 11(6), 854-867.
Habitat transformations and climate change are among the most important drivers of biodiversity loss. Understanding the factors responsible for the unequal distribution of species richness is a major challenge in ecology. Using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey to measure species richness and a change metric extracted from the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), we examined the influence of energy variability on the geographic distribution of avian richness across the conterminous U.S. and in the different ecoregions, while controlling for energy availability. The analysis compared three groups of birds: all species, Neotropical migrants, and permanent residents. We found that interannual variability in available energy explained more than half of the observed variation in bird richness in some ecoregions. In particular, energy variability is an important factor in explaining the patterns of overall bird richness and of permanent residents, in addition to energy availability. Our results showed a decrease in species richness with increasing energy variability and decreasing energy availability, suggesting that more species are found in more stable and more productive environments. However, not all ecoregions followed this pattern. The exceptions might reflect other biological factors and environmental conditions. With more ecoclimatic variability predicted for the future, this study provides insight into how energy variability influences the geographical patterns of species richness.