Environmental Management

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 417–426 | Cite as

Use of Aquaculture Ponds and Other Habitats by Autumn Migrating Shorebirds Along the Lower Mississippi River

  • Sarah E. Lehnen
  • David G. Krementz


Populations of many shorebird species are declining; habitat loss and degradation are among the leading causes for these declines. Shorebirds use a variety of habitats along interior migratory routes including managed moist soil units, natural wetlands, sandbars, and agricultural lands such as harvested rice fields. Less well known is shorebird use of freshwater aquaculture facilities, such as commercial cat- and crayfish ponds. We compared shorebird habitat use at drained aquaculture ponds, moist soil units, agricultural areas, sandbars and other natural habitat, and a sewage treatment facility in the in the lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley (LMAV) during autumn 2009. Six species: Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla), Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous), Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla), Pectoral Sandpiper (C. melanotos), Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), and Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), accounted for 92 % of the 31,165 individuals observed. Sewage settling lagoons (83.4, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 25.3–141.5 birds/ha), drained aquaculture ponds (33.5, 95 % CI 22.4–44.6 birds/ha), and managed moist soil units on public lands (15.7, CI 11.2–20.3 birds/ha) had the highest estimated densities of shorebirds. The estimated 1,100 ha of drained aquaculture ponds available during autumn 2009 provided over half of the estimated requirement of 2,000 ha by the LMAV Joint Venture working group. However, because of the decline in the aquaculture industry, autumn shorebird habitats in the LMAV may be limited in the near future. Recognition of the current aquaculture habitat trends will be important to the future management activities of federal and state agencies. Should these aquaculture habitat trends continue, there may be a need for wildlife biologists to investigate other habitats that can be managed to offset the current and expected loss of aquaculture acreages. This study illustrates the potential for freshwater aquaculture to provide habitat for a taxa at risk. With the rapid growth of aquaculture worldwide, the practices of this industry deserve attention to identify benefits as well as risks to wildlife.


Agricultural wetlands Aquaculture Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Migration Shorebirds 



D. Bosler assisted with data collection. Funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks assisted with logistics. Cooperation for granting land access and locating survey sites was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Bald Knob, Coldwater River, St. Catherine Creek, and Yazoo National Wildlife Refuges. We thank J. Jorgensen and S. Matthews for comments on the study design. S. Allison, D. Hayden, L. Lewis, D. Linden, B. Rosamond, B. Strader, C. Swanson, T. Vidrine, R. Vinson, and J. Wilson provided assistance with site access during 2009. J. Collazo, S. Skagen, and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Any use of trade, product, website, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arkansas Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Biological Sciences1 University of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  2. 2.USGS Arkansas Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Biological Sciences1 University of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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