Despotic, high-impact species and the subcontinental scale control of avian assemblage structure

Mac Nally, Ralph, Bowen, Michiala, Howes, Alison, McAlpine, Clive A. and Maron, Martine (2012) Despotic, high-impact species and the subcontinental scale control of avian assemblage structure. Ecology, 93 3: 668-678. doi:10.1890/10-2340.1

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Author Mac Nally, Ralph
Bowen, Michiala
Howes, Alison
McAlpine, Clive A.
Maron, Martine
Total Author Count Override 5
Title Despotic, high-impact species and the subcontinental scale control of avian assemblage structure
Journal name Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0012-9658
Publication date 2012-03
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1890/10-2340.1
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 93
Issue 3
Start page 668
End page 678
Total pages 11
Place of publication Ithaca NY, United States
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Some species have disproportionate influence on assemblage structure, given their numbers or biomass. Most examples of such "strong interactors" come from small-scale experiments or from observations of the effects of invasive species. There is evidence that entire avian assemblages in open woodlands can be influenced strongly by individual species over very large areas in eastern Australia, with small-bodied species (<50 g) being adversely affected. We used data from repeated surveys in 371 sites in seven districts across a region from Victoria to Queensland (>2000 km). A series of linked Bayesian models was used to identify large-bodied (≥50 g) bird species that were associated with changes in occurrence and abundance of small-bodied species. One native species, the Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala; family Meliphagidae), was objectively identified as the sole large-bodied species having similar detrimental effects in all districts, depressing occurrence of 57 of 71 small-bodied species. Adverse effects on abundances of small-bodied species were profound when the Noisy Miner occurred with mean site abundances ≥ 1.6 birds/2 ha. The Noisy Miner may be the first species to have been shown to influence whole-of-avifauna assemblage structure through despotic aggressiveness over subcontinental scales. These substantial shifts in occurrence rates and abundances of small-bodied species flow on to alter species abundance distributions of entire assemblages over much of eastern Australia.
Keyword Avian assemblages
Bayesian model selection
Body size
Eastern Australia
Manorina melanocephala
Open woodlands
Species abundance distributions
Species distribution models
Strong interactors
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management Publications
Official 2013 Collection
Ecology Centre Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 28 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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