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Riparian habitat disturbed by reservoir management does not function as an ecological trap for the Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

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Abstract:

Ecological traps arise when anthropogenic change creates habitat that appears suitable but when selected reduces the fitness of an individual. We evaluated whether riparian habitat within the drawdown zone of the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, British Columbia, creates an ecological trap for Yellow Warblers (Setophaga petechia (L., 1766)) by investigating habitat preferences and the fitness consequences of habitat selection decisions. Preferences were inferred by examining how habitat variables influenced settlement order, and comparing habitat at nest sites and random locations. Males preferred to settle in territories with more riparian shrub and tree cover, higher shrub diversity, and less high canopy cover. Females built nests in taller shrubs surrounded by a greater density of shrub stems. Habitat preferences were positively associated with fitness: nest sites in taller shrubs surrounded by higher shrub-stem densities were more likely to avoid predation and fledge young, whereas territories with more riparian cover, higher shrub diversity, and less high canopy cover had higher annual productivity. We therefore found no evidence that riparian habitat affected by reservoir operations functions as an ecological trap. Current habitat selection decisions may be associated with fitness because Yellow Warblers are adapted to breeding in a heterogeneous environment subject to periodic flooding.

Keywords: Setophaga petechia; Yellow Warbler; ecological trap; habitat riverain; habitat selection; paruline jaune; piège écologique; reservoir; riparian; réservoir; sélection d’habitat

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z11-138

Publication date: March 2, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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