Environmental factors shaping the distribution of common wintering waterbirds in a lake ecosystem with developed shoreline
In this study, we tested whether the spatial distribution of waterbirds is influenced by shoreline urbanization or other habitat characteristics. We conducted monthly censuses along shoreline sections of a continental lake (Lake Balaton, Hungary) to assess the abundance of 11 common species that use this lake as a feeding and staging area during migration and winter. We estimated the degree of urbanization of the same shoreline sections and also measured other habitat characteristics (water depth, extent of reed cover, biomass of zebra mussels, distances to waste dumps and to other wetlands). We applied linear models and model averaging to identify habitat variables with high relative importance for predicting bird distributions. Bird abundance and urbanization were strongly related only in one species. Other habitat variables exhibited stronger relationships with bird distribution: (1) diving ducks and coots preferred shoreline sections with high zebra mussel biomass, (2) gulls preferred sites close to waste dumps, and (3) the abundances of several species were higher on shoreline sections close to other wetlands. Our findings suggest that the distribution of waterbirds on Lake Balaton is largely independent of shoreline urbanization and influenced by food availability and connectivity between wetlands.
KeywordsShoreline development Waterbird abundance Habitat use Mussel biomass Wetland connectivity Model averaging
The comments of two anonymous reviewers, furthermore Á. Gyimesi’s and Zs. Végvári’s suggestions on the earlier version of this manuscript significantly improved the quality of this article. T. Hegyi (Warrant Officer and the Hungarian Defence Forces, Joint Force Command) kindly provided the equipment and assistance for distance measuring. The Central Transdanubian Environmental and Water Authority let us use the aerial photographs. M. Golding reviewed the language of this manuscript. A. Liker was supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship.
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