Waterbird guilds predict environmental attributes of inland saline aquatic ecosystems on multi-spatial scales

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Jan 10;855:158845. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158845. Epub 2022 Sep 17.


Inland saline waters in Central Asia constitute an important part of steppe ecosystems, providing considerable ecological functions and ecosystem services. Here we aim to present a multi-spatial scale analysis of nutrient cycling and transport waterbird guilds, and the environmental attributes of saline-soda aquatic ecosystems in Kazakhstan. The density, biomass, and diversity of waterbird guilds was determined in the case of three nutrient cycling and transport guilds: a) net-importer (IM), b) importer-exporter (IMEX), c) net-exporter (EX), according to the Boros's guild classification method, and for several traditional feeding guilds: carnivorous, herbivorous, invertebrate eater, omnivorous and piscivorous. Our results revealed that waterbird guilds, as predictors represented by the complete waterbird community, are in close relationship with several (N = 12) environmental attributes of inland saline waters through complex trophic linkages of waterbird populations on multi-spatial scales. The density and the biomass of the EX and IMEX guilds are strongly and positively correlated (i) with the productivity metrics of habitats (e.g., CHL, GPP), indicating their trophic position, and (ii) with water depth. We found significant correlations among guild density, biomass, diversity and environmental attributes on multi-spatial scales for IMEX and EX. Our results revealed that IMEX predicts the surrounding environment of aquatic habitats, whereas EX species are substantial environmental predictors of aquatic ecosystems. However, the diversity metric had valid models only with EX. The herbivorous and omnivorous guilds, that feed chiefly on plant materials consist mainly of IMEX and EX duck species, which were positively related to grassland coverage and the shoreline development index. As a methodological result, here we present a novel approach, the guild transport index, which has more robust relationships with environmental attributes than individual guilds, thus it provides a complex evaluation of the nutrient cycling by birds between aquatic and terrestrial environments on multi-spatial scales.

Keywords: Boros's method; Central Asia; Guild transport index; Kazakhstan; Nutrient cycling by birds; Ordinary least squares models.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Birds*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Invertebrates
  • Kazakhstan