Impact of adjacent land use and isolation on marsh bird communities

Smith, L. and Chow-Fraser, P.
Environmental Management
(2010) 45: 1040-1051


Over the next half century the human population is expected to grow rapidly, resulting in the conversion of rural areas into cities. Wetlands in these regions are there- fore under threat, even though they have important eco- system services and functions. Many obligate marsh-nesting birds in North America have shown declines over the past 40 years, and it is important to evaluate marsh bird com- munity response to increased urbanization. We surveyed 20 coastal marshes in southern Ontario, Canada, and found that obligate marsh-nesting birds preferred rural over urban wetlands, generalist marsh-nesting birds showed no prefer- ence, while synanthropic species showed a trend towards increased richness and abundance in urban marshes. The Index of Marsh Bird Community Integrity (IMBCI) was calculated for each wetland and we found significantly higher scores in rural compared to urban wetlands. The presence of a forested buffer surrounding the marsh was not an important factor in predicting the distribution of gener- alists, obligates, synanthropic species, or the IMBCI. More isolated marshes had a lower species richness of obligate marsh-nesters and a lower IMBCI than less isolated mar- shes. Based on our results, we recommend that urban land use is not the dominant land use within 1000 m from any wetland, as it negatively affects the abundance and richness of obligate marsh-nesters, and the overall integrity of the avian community. We also recommend that all existing wetlands be conserved to mitigate against isolation effects and to preserve biodiversity.

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