Mean latitudinal Range Sizes of Bird Assemblages in Six Neotropical Forests During Forest Clearance and Subsequent Regeneration

Aim:The geographical range size frequency distributions of animal and plant assemblages are among the most important factors affecting large-scale patterns of diversity. Nonetheless, the relationship between habitat type and the range size distributions of species forming assemblages remains poorly understood. We examined how the mean latitudinal range sizes of species in Neotropical bird species assemblages shift during forest clearance and subsequent regeneration. We tested the hypothesis that bird species assemblages in early successional habitats tend to have larger latitudinal ranges than those in more mature forests. Location: We considered breeding bird chronosequence data from six Neotropical forests. Results: Breeding bird assemblages were found to have the species with the largest average latitudinal range sizes in cleared areas, intermediate in young secondary forests and smallest in old secondary and mature forests. Similar differences were also found when we compared congeners differing in their successional preferences. Sizes of regional ranges (within the Neotropics) did not, however, differ consistently among successional stages. The larger latitudinal (but not regional) ranges of early successional species was as a result in part of the tendency of early successional species to have ranges that extend beyond the Neotropical forest biome. Conclusions: Our analysis of chronosequences suggests that as early successional habitats mature, a consistent shift from large-ranged species towards more small ranged species occurs. Even relatively old secondary forests have bird species with larger average ranges than mature forests. As a consequence, conservation of secondary forests alone will miss many of the species most at risk of extinction and most unlikely to be conserved in other locations or biomes.