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Island characteristics within wetlands influence waterbird nest success and abundance

July 18, 2016

Coastal waterbird populations are threatened by habitat loss and degradation from urban and agricultural development and forecasted sea level rise associated with climate change. Remaining wetlands often must be managed to ensure that waterbird habitat needs, and other ecosystem functions, are met. For many waterbirds, the availability of island nesting habitat is important for conserving breeding populations. We used linear mixed models to investigate the influence of pond and island landscape characteristics on nest abundance and nest success of American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), and Forster's terns (Sterna forsteri) in San Francisco Bay, California, USA, based on a 9-year dataset that included >9,000 nests. Nest abundance and nest success were greatest within ponds and on individual islands located either <1 km or >4 km from San Francisco Bay. Further, nest abundance was greater within ponds with relatively few islands, and on linear-shaped, highly elongated islands compared to more rounded islands. Nest success was greater on islands located away from the nearest surrounding pond levee. Compared to more rounded islands, linear islands contained more near-water habitat preferred by many nesting waterbirds. Islands located away from pond levees may provide greater protection from terrestrial egg and chick predators. Our results indicate that creating and maintaining a few, relatively small, highly elongated and narrow islands away from mainland levees, in as many wetland ponds as possible would be effective at providing waterbirds with preferred nesting habitat.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Island characteristics within wetlands influence waterbird nest success and abundance
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21120
Authors C. Alex Hartman, Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70176135
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization San Francisco Bay-Delta; Western Ecological Research Center