UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Species colonization and extinction processes in an island bird community Johnson, Kate Marie


Species invasion and range shifts are widely reported and facilitate novel interactions among potential competitors in plant and animal communities worldwide. However, predicting which novel interactions will result in the extirpation of subordinate competitors is challenging. Coexistence versus extinction as alternative outcomes of competition between resident and colonizing species may arise due to (1) variation in interaction strength, (2) change in other demographic drivers more influential than those linked to competition, or (3) differences in the extent to which resources are equitably partitioned between competitors, which may in turn depend on the spatial scale examined. To date, however, empirical studies suggest these factors rarely align to cause the competitive exclusion of native species. I used a combination of field experiments and demographic analyses to test the hypothesis that colonizing fox sparrows (Passerella iliaca) have caused the 0.6% per year decline of a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) population resident on Mandarte Island, BC, Canada. Several lines of evidence indicate that interspecific competition for winter food has: a) reduced survival in juvenile song sparrows after colonization by fox sparrows in 1975, b) led to an inverse relationship between juvenile song sparrow survival and fox sparrow population size, c) excluded song sparrows from high-quality foraging sites in winter via consistent behavioural dominance by fox sparrows and complete overlap of fox and song sparrow preference for local seeds, despite d) no evidence of competition for breeding territories or nesting habitat. My results suggest that in the absence of rapid ecological or evolutionary shifts in niche dimension, song sparrows will likely be extirpated from Mandarte Is., thus demonstrating that competitive exclusion of native species can occur when interactions are strong and resources are not easily partitioned.

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