Conservation and Ecology of Wildlife Communities I

Contributed Paper
ROOM: Room 130 – Cimarron

10:30AM Impact of Vehicular Traffic on Vertebrate Mortality in and around Two National Parks of Sri Lanka: Conservation Concerns & Insights for Park Management
Thilina D. Surasinghe; Suranjan Karunarathna; Sudeera Ranwala; Majintha Madawala
Roads impose multiple ecological adversities on biodiversity including habitat fragmentation, increased incidences of alien invasions, predisposition to human disturbances, obstructed metacommunity dynamics, and incidental road mortality. Rapid expansion of road networks is not uncommon in and around protected areas of Sri Lanka where numerous national parks attract amasses of tourists annually. Therefore, we studied specific taxa/faunal groups susceptible to roadkills, how tourism impacts roadkills, and (3) to provide recommendations to minimize wildlife roadkills in Sri Lanka. We surveyed roads in and around two national parks from 2009 to 2014. We recorded 47 roadkilled vertebrate species at both parks; among these, 12 were listed threatened and 17 were endemic. Herpetofauna suffered the most mortalities. Nearly 90% of roadkilled herpetofauna were ground-dwelling species. Both aquatic-breeding and directly-developing amphibianswere equally susceptible to roadkills. Greater incidences of mortality were recorded during monsoon season at both parks. Although located in two different bioclimatic zones and have contrasting visitation rates and road densities, a substantial fraction of the species pool in both parks were victims of road mortality. Carelessness of tour operators, high-speed safari-jeep driving, absence of strict law enforcement on speed-limits, and poor communication between parks authorizes and tour operators are the most detrimental factors. Sri Lankan conservation authorities are unaware of the severity of roadkills- thus management plans of these parks have no remedies for road mortality. Our recommendations to mitigate roadkills include creation of speed bumps; strict enforcement of speed limits; limitations on number of vehicle entry, restricted vehicle access to certain park subdivisions; restrictions on nighttime road usage; and road closure during monsoons. Both safari drivers and tourists were unaware of this issue; therefore making them aware of roadkills as a critical conservation concern is paramount. A transition from mass tourism to ecotourism is a much-needed endeavor for these national parks.
10:50AM Effects of Wildfire on Avian Communities in the Arizona Sky Islands
Jamie S. Sanderlin; William M. Block; Joseph L. Ganey; Jose M. Iniguez; Samuel Cushman
The avifauna within the Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona includes species found nowhere else in the U.S. Thus, birdwatchers from across the globe visit the region, providing a vibrant state and local ecotourism industry. We initiated a study on birds across montane forest and woodland types in the Santa Rita, Santa Catalina, Huachuca, Chiricahua, and Pinaleño Mountains (Coronado National Forest) from 1991 to 1995. Since then, the region has been under increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfire, possibly associated with climate change. We know little about fire effects on populations and habitats of Neotropical migratory birds in this region. Our objectives were to determine if bird distribution patterns and species diversity changed over time and if changes were attributable to fire and climate change. Secondly, we wanted to evaluate relationships of fire severity and time since fire with these avian communities. During spring and summer 2014, we resampled birds and vegetation at 28 of the original transects (n = 328 count stations). We used multi-species, multi-season occupancy models in a Bayesian hierarchical framework to estimate species richness and community dynamics, while accounting for imperfect detection. We used time since fire and fire severity to assess temporal and spatial variation in fire effects. Results indicate positive and negative responses to fire by individual species, and changes in community dynamics. By re-sampling vegetation and birds following wildfire, our study can provide guidance with post-fire restoration, and assist with conserving avian community structure.
11:10AM Native Bees in Managed Shrublands in the Green Mountains, Vermont
David I. King; Joan C. Milam
Native bees are key components of native biodiversity. Conservationists have become increasingly concerned about evidence of declines in bee populations attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use, disease, and climate change. However, studies report some forms of disturbance appear to be potentially beneficial to bees, including practices employed for habitat management on the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) in Vermont. We sampled bees at 31 shrubland sites in clearcuts, mowed wildlife openings and wildlife openings treated with prescribed fire, as well as 30 points in a reference mature forest area, during the spring and summer of 2015 to compare the effectiveness of these practices for promoting native bee communities. We captured 289 individual bees representing 62 species, including one female Bombus terrícola, which is listed as threatened in Vermont. Overall, bees were most abundant in clearcuts and burned openings, and less abundant in mowed openings. B. ternarius was more abundant in mowed openings and Lasioglossum cressonii was more abundant in burned openings. Notably fewer bees were captured in mature forest than any of the managed habitats. Species richness was similar between clearcuts and burned openings, and lower in mowed openings, and species composition was similar between clearcuts and openings treated with prescribed fire, which both differed from mechanically treated openings Bee abundance seemed to be more associated with dead wood and bare soil for nesting than floral abundance or diversity, suggesting that regardless of the treatment implemented, efforts to enhance these habitat features would increase habitat value for bees. These findings suggest clearcuts and prescribed fire are both effective methods to manage bee habitat, and although mowed sites support fewer individuals and species, they host species less well represented in clearcuts or burned sites.
11:30AM Wanna Get Buzzed Out on the Range? Pyric Herbivory Increases Pollinator Diversity and Creates Bumble Bee Habitat
Shelly Wiggam; Chyna K. Pei; Gregory Zolnerowich; Lee W. Cohnstaedt; Brian P. McCornack
Rangleands are a stronghold for native wildlife in North America, yet conventional rangeland management practices select against most pollinator species. Implementing management practices that benefit both wildlife and producers is our best option for creating habitat that supports increased biodiversity and sustainable wildlife populations across landscapes. Wildlife of the Great Plains evolved with an ecological process called pyric herbivory, in which the interaction of fire and grazing drive a shifting mosaic of habitat heterogeneity across local, regional, and continental scales. However, conventional rangeland management practices often lack fire, and they primarily manage for uniform livestock grazing. The objective of this study was to determine native pollinator responses in cattle pastures throughout the Flint Hills ecoregion to the conventional rangeland management practice of annual-burn-grazing as compared to patch-burn-grazing, a conservation rangeland management practice that strives to effectively mimic pyric herbivory while maintaining profitability. Pollinator communities, including 226 species of bees and butterflies, were surveyed April-November in each 2013-2016 at five private, for-profit ranches that conduct both annual-burn-grazing and patch-burn-grazing. VHF-tagged bumble bee queens were fitted with 0.195g transmitters, and approximately 500 waypoints were recorded per day per queen with activity and resource use documented at each waypoint. Pollinator community results indicate a twofold increase in relative pollinator abundance in patch-burn-grazing pastures as compared to annual-burn-grazing pastures, with a threefold increase in native bee species richness in patch-burn-grazing pastures, and a twofold increase in butterfly species richness. Moreover, 93% of VHF-tagged bumble bee queens nested in 2-years-since-fire patches, yet foraged 65% of the time in the year-of-fire patches, and 32% in the 1-year-since-fire patches. These findings indicate that patch-burn grazing has significant potential to restore one of North America’s most endangered groups of wildlife – native grassland pollinators – with one of it’s most dominant land-use enterprises – cattle grazing.
11:50AM Understanding Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Red Foxes in Piping Plover Nesting Habitat in Southern New Jersey
Michelle Stantial; Jonathan Cohen
Understanding Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Piping Plover Nesting Habitat in Southern New Jersey Michelle Stantial and Jonathan Cohen State University of New York – College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry Many bird species commonly found throughout the United States have suffered population declines largely due to habitat loss and the effects of predation. Efforts to protect and increase breeding piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) on the Atlantic Coast have continued since the species’ Endangered Species Act listing in 1986. Yet, despite intensive management that aligns with recovery plan guidelines, the population of piping plovers nesting in New Jersey has seen no increase in abundance since listing. Predators have played a major role in preventing the species recovery. We studied red fox (Vulpes vulpes) occupancy in the nesting habitat of a threatened shorebird, the piping plover, at nine study sites throughout southern New Jersey in 2015 and 2016. We used dynamic occupancy models analyzed in a Bayesian framework to estimate the probability of habitat use by red foxes and track how fox habitat use changed throughout the course of the breeding season. We had a total of 126 fox detections from 88 survey plots. Fox occupancy in piping plover habitat was highest during the incubation period. Of 34 candidate models, the best-fitting model included distance to dune as the only significant covariate for predator occupancy. As the distance to the dune increased, the probability of habitat use by red foxes decreased. Our results suggest that red foxes tend to use areas closer to dunes and vegetation, and management that maintains the habitat heterogeneity created by coastal storms may be important for successful nesting of piping plovers because birds are not forced into nesting in areas which are typically used by red foxes.


Contributed Paper
Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 10:30 am - 12:10 pm