, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 304-314
Date: 30 May 2012

Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) Nesting Effects on Understory Composition and Diversity on Island Ecosystems in Lake Erie

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Abstract

The context for this study is the management concerns over the severity and extent of the impact of cormorants on island flora in the recent past on Lake Erie islands. Accordingly, this study sought to quantify the nesting colonies’ influence on coarse woody litter and how nest densities and litter depth may influence the herbaceous layer, the seed bank composition and viability across the extent of three Lake Erie islands. The data for this study were collected from 2004 to 2008 on East Sister Island and Middle Island using two main strategies. First, herbaceous layer surveys, cormorant nest counts, soil seed bank cores, and litter depth measurements were executed using a plotless-point quarter method to test island-wide impacts from nesting activities (data were also collected on a third island, West Sister Island as a reference for the other two islands). Secondly, a sub-sample of the entire plot set was examined in particularly high nesting density areas for two islands (Middle Island and East Sister Island). Kruskal–Wallis tests indicated that there are subtle changes in the herbaceous diversity (total, native and exotic) and seed bank composition across the islands. The sub sample set of the plots demonstrated that Phalacrocorax auritus nest density does influence litter depth, herbaceous species abundance and diversity. Cormorant nesting pressures are restricted to areas of high nesting pressures and competition. However, there remains a risk to the interior herbaceous layer of the island if the effects of nesting pressures at the edges advance inward from this perimeter.