, Volume 147, Issue 4, pp 725-733
Date: 10 Dec 2005

Spatial synchrony of prairie ducks: roles of wetland abundance, distance, and agricultural cover

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Abstract

Populations exhibit spatial synchrony when their numbers rise and fall in concert at several sites over their distribution. I examined the relationship between synchrony, abundance of wetlands (ponds), distance, and agricultural cover using count data of ten duck species counted in 23 aerial survey strata on the mid-continental prairies of North America. Expansion of agriculture may have resulted in increased synchrony of duck populations through increased foraging efficiency of nomadic predators and/or if the homogenization of nesting habitat has removed habitat features that allow differential local responses to large-scale population drivers such as precipitation. As a measure of synchrony, I calculated all pair-wise cross-correlation coefficients based on population growth rates (r t ) at each survey stratum, and then regressed these correlation coefficients against measures of cross-correlation of pond (wetland) counts, distance between strata, and mean percent area of strata seeded to row crops. Synchrony for most species was most strongly related to synchrony of wetland availability among sites, and decreased with distance between sites. Synchrony of ducks that nest over water showed little effect of agricultural cover, whereas the effect of agricultural cover on synchrony of upland nesting ducks differed by species. Mobile large-bodied species showed evidence of increased synchrony due to agricultural cover, whereas smaller-bodied, more philopatric species showed evidence of decreased synchrony due to agricultural cover.