Terrestrial liming benefits birds in an acidified forest in the northeast

Sarah E. Pabian, Margaret C. Brittingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Studies in Europe have reported negative effects of acid deposition on forest birds, and research in North America has identified links between forest bird abundance and rates of acid deposition. We examined the bird community in an acidified forest in central Pennsylvania (USA) and evaluated the effects of terrestrial lime application on birds. We used a before-after control-impact (BACI) study design, with one year of observation before (2003) and three years after lime application (2004, 2005, and 2006). Between the 2003 and 2004 field seasons, 4500 kg/ha of dolomitic lime were applied to two of four 100-ha watersheds. Each year, we monitored bird abundance and Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) eggshell thickness and territory size. Soil and snail abundance data were also collected. The bird community and territory size results indicated that the study area may be providing low-quality habitat for forest birds, perhaps as a result of acid deposition. We found lower forest bird abundances than have been found in less acidified areas of Pennsylvania, and larger Ovenbird territory sizes than have been found in other studies. We found a significant positive relationship between soil calcium and bird abundance, indicating that soil calcium may affect bird abundance. Liming increased soil calcium and pH and led to increased snail and bird abundances. After liming, bird abundance was positively related to snail abundance. No significant changes occurred in Ovenbird territory size or eggshell thickness. Our results suggest that acid deposition could be responsible for reduced bird abundance, and that liming is a potential mitigation technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2184-2194
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology


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