Black tern (Chlidonias niger) breeding site abandonment in U.S. Great Lakes coastal wetlands is predicted by historical abundance and patterns of emergent vegetation

Katherine E. Wyman, Francesca J. Cuthbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Breeding colonies of black terns (Chlidonias niger) have become increasingly rare in U.S. Great Lakes coastal wetlands since the mid-twentieth century, with an almost 90% decline in the number of active colony sites since 1991. Although the specific causes of this wetland species’ decline are unknown, habitat loss and degradation are thought to be a major barrier to conservation. Using data from the Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey, we took a unique regional and historical approach to investigate the relationship between black tern colony site abandonment and a suite of local and landscape-scale habitat features in U.S. Great Lakes coastal wetlands. We employed logistic regression models and a combination of stepwise selection procedures to identify the best predictive model for black tern colony abandonment. According to the selected model, breeding colonies with fewer nests were more likely to be abandoned over the following decadal observation period than breeding colonies with more nests. Colony sites were also more likely to be abandoned when vegetation within the wetland shifted towards larger, denser clusters. We performed a simulation study that showed that failing to account for association between observations from the same site affected model selection results, but that cross-validation error for the selected model remained low unless site effects were very strong. Results of this study suggest that focus on protection of sites harboring large numbers of black terns and vegetation management will help limit further colony abandonments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-596
Number of pages14
JournalWetlands Ecology and Management
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A. Rothman provided valuable statistical advice. J. Hennig manually digitized dozens of historical aerial photographs for development of the dataset. D. Larkin, J. Knight, and J. Fieberg provided helpful reviews of the manuscript at different points in its development. Many cooperators across the U.S. Great Lakes region contributed to the Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey; the authors extend special thanks to W. Scharf, G. Shugart, J. McKearnan, L. Wires, and D. DeRuiter. Finally, F. Cuthbert coordinated collection of data for the third and fourth Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Surveys while located at the University of Michigan Biological Station, Pellston, MI. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funded this project via the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture, as well as the Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey, from which this study drew data. K. Wyman?s contribution to this work was also supported by a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota whereas F. Cuthbert was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1007020.

Funding Information:
Funding The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funded this project via the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture, as well as the Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey, from which this study drew data. K. Wyman’s contribution to this work was also supported by a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota whereas F. Cuthbert was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1007020.

Keywords

  • Black tern
  • Chlidonias niger
  • Great Lakes
  • Vegetation management
  • Waterbird
  • Wetland restoration

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