Master of Science (MS)
Renewable Natural Resources
The wetlands of Louisiana are losing area at the rapid rate of 42.9 km2 yr-1 and the trend is expected to continue. This combined with expected sea-level rise will likely cause large shifts in vegetation and salinity regimes that will affect the wildlife species reliant on these ecosystems. Waterbirds serve as indicator species of ecosystem health in estuarine wetland habitats; therefore, these species are often the targets of wetland management goals in Louisiana. However, many proposed wetland restoration projects are focused primarily on social impacts with only a few specific waterbird species designated for management. The majority of these waterbird habitat-use studies in Louisiana wetlands have focused on waterfowl species and their abundance in wetland habitats during migration and winter. My overall objective was to compare habitat use of all waterbird taxa in fresh and saline estuarine wetland habitats. Additionally, I examined habitat use at finer spatial scales to assess a possible preference for marsh edge microhabitats when compared to open water and interior emergent vegetation. I also investigated waterbird associations with the environmental parameters of emergent and aquatic species composition, percentage of open water, and salinity. From July 2014 to December 2015, I compared waterbird density and species richness both spatially and temporally to assess habitat use. I found that species richness differed between fresh and saline habitats depending on the month, with the month of April having the greatest species richness. Waterbird density was greatest among edge microhabitat regardless of salinity type, and birds utilized this habitat up to 15 m from the edge. Density did not vary in open water plots in relation to salinity type. The relationships between environmental variables and species were significant (p=0.002) as well as relationships between guilds and environmental variables (p=0.002). These data will be useful in attempts to simulate the effects of wetland loss and salinity changes on habitat quality for waterbirds in coastal Louisiana, and will inform habitat restoration and management decisions for optimal waterbird use.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Patton, Brett Ashley, "Living on the Edge: An Assessment of the Habitat Use of Waterbirds in Estuarine Wetlands of Barataria Basin, LA" (2016). LSU Master's Theses. 1670.