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Disruption and restoration of en route habitat, a case study: The Chenier Plain

December 31, 2000

Cheniers (relict beach ridges) and other habitats adjacent to ecological barriers may be critical linkages in the migratory pathways of long-distance migratory birds. It is important that these wooded habitats provide enough food and cover at the right time to support these birds’ requirements. To date, little attention has been given to the conservation of coastal woodlands, habitats in which en route migrants tend to concentrate in large numbers during migration. Because about one-third of North Americas ’ human population lives within 80 km of the coast, many forest-dwelling landbird migrants now depend on degraded native woodlands and urbanized environments for survival during migration. Restoration or rehabilitation of coastal woodlands, such as the cheniers of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas, is of particular importance because of historic anthropogenic modifications, their limited geographic extent, and the extraordinary abundance and species richness of migratory birds using them during migration. In this paper, we use the Chenier Plain as a case study to discuss the issue of land use changes and their consequences for maintaining suitable stopover habitat. Results from an ongoing field study in this ecosystem indicate that most forest-dependent migratory birds are tolerant of at least some degradation of chenier forest during migration. However, these results reveal that subtle differences in vegetation composition and structure beneath the canopy of these forests, primarily as a result of livestock grazing and white-tailed deer overbrowsing, can result in differential use by some en route migrants. Species that were most affected by disturbance to the forest understory were early-arriving migrants, dead-leaf foragers, frugivores, and nectarivores. Given that the understory structure and regeneration of chenier forests has been so greatly reduced, and that high densities of nearctic-neotropical migrants tend to concentrate in cheniers during migration, restoration and re-habilitation should be conservation priorities in the Chenier Plain.

Publication Year 2000
Title Disruption and restoration of en route habitat, a case study: The Chenier Plain
Authors Wylie C. Barrow, Chao-Chieh Chen, Robert B. Hamilton, Keith Ouchley, Terry J. Spengler
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Studies in Avian Biology
Index ID 70204232
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center