Domains of Scale in Cumulative Effects of Energy Sector Development on Boreal Birds

Andrew Crosby
Lionel Leston
Erin Bayne
Péter Sólymos
Lisa Mahon
Judith Toms
Teegan Docherty
Samantha Song
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We estimated cumulative effects of energy sector development on distributions of sixteen migratory songbird species at multiple spatial scales within the boreal region of Alberta, Canada, and evaluated evidence for scale domains in species responses.

We used a hierarchical, multi-scale sampling and modelling framework to compare effects of oil and gas footprint on songbirds at five spatial scales. We used Bayesian Lasso to facilitate direct comparison of parameter estimates across scales, and tested for differences in grouped parameter estimates among species.

We found consistent scale-dependent patterns across species, showing variable responses to development occurring at the smallest scale, little effect at intermediate scales, and stronger, mainly positive effects at the largest scales. Differences in grouped parameter estimates across scales showed strong evidence for scale domains in the response of songbirds to energy sector development.

We concluded that variable effects at the smallest scale represented individual habitat selection, while larger scale positive effects reflected expanding distributions of open habitat- and disturbance-associated species in areas of high oil and gas footprint. Our results show that single-scale analyses do not reflect population processes occurring at other scales. Future research on linking patterns at different scales is required to fully understand cumulative effects of land use change on wildlife populations.