Date of Award

Winter 2023

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Rebecca J Rowe

Second Advisor

Mark J Ducey

Third Advisor

John S Gunn


Exploitative forest harvesting has led to widespread economic degradation of forests across the northeastern United States. Tree species composition and structure vary across degradation categories, which may lead to differences in wildlife communities and the ecosystem functions wildlife provide. Avian communities in particular respond quickly to changes in habitat, are easy to survey, and contribute to a variety of important ecosystem functions. Here, we investigated the relationship between economic degradation and avian functional diversity focusing on the ecosystem functions of seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, and pest control. We found that avian functional diversity responded to degradation in a unimodal manner with stands of moderate economic value supporting the highest functional diversity. Further, the response of functional diversity to degradation varied depending on the specific metric used (i.e., functional dispersion, functional divergence, and functional evenness) and ecosystem function assessed (i.e., seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, and pest control). Differences in functional diversity among degradation categories were primarily driven by softwood composition and canopy structure and how those factors interact with several avian behavioral traits. Our work illustrates the importance of integrating both economic and ecological values when making management decisions and provides insight into ways land managers may support vital ecosystem functions.