Are created habitats for the birds?
Cristol, Daniel*,1, DesRochers, David1, Keagy, Jason1, LeClerc, Joshua1, Snell-Rood, Emilie1, 1 College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
ABSTRACT- We examined bird diversity and reproduction on three different human-created habitats in Virginia, USA, and found deficits on each. This suggests that mitigating destruction of natural habitat by creating replacement acreage is a losing proposition for bird populations. Colonial waterbirds nesting on an artificial island experienced low reproductive success, probably explained by lack of food near the colony. Golf courses provided almost no habitat for birds of conservation concern, even the disturbance-dependent species proposed as beneficiaries of golf course construction. Golf courses had no higher conservation value for birds than reference agricultural or residential habitats. However, the most common nesting songbird on golf courses reproduced at a rate comparable to natural sites and golf courses could be serving as sources for this species. Bird communities in six created forested wetlands and eleven created saltmarshes were also depauperate, lacking songbirds and wetland-dependent species when compared to matched natural wetlands. Reproductive success of the most common songbird was lower on these mitigation wetlands than on reference sites. Our analysis suggests that destroying wetlands that are population sources and replacing them with mitigation sites that are sinks can eventually cause declines in metapopulations, even if more habitat is created than was originally destroyed. We urge great caution when promoting the use of created habitat as a replacement for natural habitat. Other options, such as protection of natural habitat in perpetuity or restoration of degraded habitat may lead to better outcomes.
Key words: mitigation, wetland, bird, metapopulation
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