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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The role of rare avian species for spatial resilience of shifting biomes in the Great Plains of North America

Angeler, David; Roberts, Caleb P.; Twidwell, Dirac; Allen, Craig R.;


Human activity causes biome shifts that alter biodiversity and spatial resilience patterns. Rare species, often considered vulnerable to change and endangered, can be a critical element of resilience by providing adaptive capacity in response to disturbances. However, little is known about changes in rarity patterns of communities once a biome transitions into a novel spatial regime. We used time series modeling to identify rare avian species in an expanding terrestrial (southern) spatial regime in the North American Great Plains and another (northern) regime that will become encroached by the southern regime in the near future. In this time-explicit approach, presumably rare species show stochastic dynamics in relative abundance – this is because they occur only rarely throughout the study period, may largely be absent but show occasional abundance peaks or show a combination of these patterns. We specifically assessed how stochastic/rare species of the northern spatial regime influence aspects of ecological resilience once it has been encroached by the southern regime. Using 47 years (1968–2014) of breeding bird survey data and a space-for-time substitution, we found that the overall contribution of stochastic/rare species to the avian community of the southern regime was low. Also, none of these species were of conservation concern, suggesting limited need for revised species conservation action in the novel spatial regime. From a systemic perspective, our results preliminarily suggest that stochastic/rare species only marginally contribute to resilience in a new spatial regime after fundamental ecological changes have occurred.


rare species; regime shifts; biome change; biogeography; conservation; spatial regimes; resilience

Published in

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

2022, volume: 10, article number: 849944

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The PRODEO Institute
Deakin University
Roberts, Caleb P.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Twidwell, Dirac
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Allen, Craig R.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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