Effects of landscape structure and temporal habitat dynamics on wintering mallard abundance
Management of wintering waterfowl in North America requires adaptability because constant landscape and environmental change challenges existing management strategies regarding waterfowl habitat use at large spatial scales. Migratory waterfowl including mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) use the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) for wintering habitat, making this an important area of emphasis for improving wetland conservation strategies, while enhancing the understanding of landscape-use patterns.
We used aerial survey data collected in the Arkansas portion of the MAV (ARMAV) to explain the abundance and distribution of mallards in relation to variable landscape conditions.
We used two-stage, hierarchical spatio-temporal models with a random spatial effect to identify covariates related to changes in mallard abundance and distribution within and among years.
We found distinct spatio-temporal patterns existed for mallard distributions across the ARMAV and these distributions are dependent on the surrounding landscape structure and changing environmental conditions. Models performing best indicated seasonal surface water extent, rice field, wetland and fallow (uncultivated) fields positively influenced mallard presence. Rice fields, surface water and weather were found to influence mallard abundance. Additionally, the results suggest weather and changing surface water affects mallard presence and abundance throughout the winter.
Using novel datasets to identify which environmental factors drive changes in regional wildlife distribution and abundance can improve management by providing managers additional information to manage land over landscapes spanning private and public lands. We suggest our analytical approach may be informative in other areas and for other wildlife species.
KeywordsSpecies distribution modeling Spatial random effect Species-habitat relationships Anas platyrhynchos Waterbird Waterfowl
This research was funded by the U.S. Geological Survey Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the University of Arkansas. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We would like to acknowledge additional funding from the Arkansas Audubon Society. High performance computing resources provided by Technology Services at Tulane University. Aerial surveys were funded by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and performed by AGFC employees Jason Jackson, Jason Carbaugh and J.J. Abernathy. We also thank Kristen L. Herbert, Sarah Lehnen, Michael Mitchell, and Henry T. Pittman.
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