Wading Birds—Barometer of Management Strategies in the Indian River Lagoon
Abstract:Wading birds (Cinconiiformes) exhibit some key prerequisites as useful barometers of estuarine systems, such as the Indian River Lagoon, in that they require: seasonally variable hydrological regimes that provide concentrated prey; predator-free breeding and roosting sites close to these feeding areas; and post-breeding areas for juvenile survival. They respond actively to fluctuations in these parameters and their distribution is a measure of the temporal and spatial variability in hydrological regimes and breeding sites within the lagoon. This study documents that the Indian River Lagoon and the Upper Basin of the St. Johns marsh combined represent about 25% of Florida's breeding wading bird population and may also play a key role for overwintering and migrating wading birds. Although wading birds have been affected by alteration and loss of suitable wetland habitat throughout Florida they can respond to appropriate management strategies. This study suggests that one management strategy—multiple summer drawdowns in estuarine impoundments in the Indian River Lagoon—is favored by wading birds. On dates with drawdowns available in the study area, the mean bird density increased by 157.5% over dates with no drawdown available. On average 59% of the birds seen on dates with drawdowns occurred in the drawdown impoundments. We conclude this paper with some recommendations as to how to improve management for wading birds by incorporating this strategy at a broader scale throughout the lagoon.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 1995
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