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Recovery of avian assemblages in restored wetlands in Prairie Canada.
Puchniak, Allison 1, Paszkowski, Cynthia1, Gray, Brian2, 1 2
ABSTRACT- Wetland loss to agriculture and urbanization in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada has been widespread and wetlands continue to be lost. The restoration of wetlands by blocking drainage ditches is an economical means of returning water to an area. Ducks Unlimited Canada has restored over 1000 wetlands since 1987. Monitoring of restored wetlands to determine wildlife response has been minimal. We are comparing species richness, abundance and composition of bird assemblages between restored and natural (reference) wetlands in order to assess the success of restoration in (re)creating wildlife habitat. Over 2 years of study, 182 wetlands (97 restored) were surveyed for all bird species near Camrose, Alberta (1999 and 2000) and Foam Lake, Saskatchewan (2000). Forty-seven wetlands were surveyed in both years. Species presence was determined using a combination of waterfowl survey, modified point count and call response techniques. Data on water chemistry, wetland morphometry, vegetation structure and composition were collected. A total of 72 bird species were observed and core species lists are similar between provinces. Forty-three species are dependent on wetlands as major feeding or nesting sites. Results from Alberta indicate similarity between restored and natural wetland assemblages. Widespread drainage in Saskatchewan has resulted in differences in wetland morphometry and resulting bird assemblages between restored and reference sites. Results suggest that restoration should continue to play a role in future wetland conservation strategies in western Canada.
KEY WORDS: bird ecology, habitat, conservation, grasslands