Environmental Management

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 675–693 | Cite as

The nature of cumulative impacts on biotic diversity of wetland vertebrates

  • Larry D. Harris
Section IV Cumulative Impacts to Wetlands and Wildlife


There is no longer any doubt that cumulative impacts have important effects on wetland vertebrates. Interactions of species diversity and community structure produce a complex pattern in which environmental impacts can play a highly significant role. Various examples show how wetlands maintain the biotic diversity within and among vertebrate populations, and some of the ways that environmental perturbations can interact to reduce this diversity.

The trophic and habitat pyramids are useful organizing concepts. Habitat fragmentation can have severe effects at all levels, reducing the usable range of the larger habitat generalists while threatening the genetic integrity of small, isolated populations. The complexity of trophic interactions, and the propensity, or necessity, of vertebrates to switch from one food source to another—something we know little about—makes using food chain support as a variable for predicting environmental impacts very questionable.

Historical instances illustrate the effects of the accumulation of impacts on vertebrates. At present it is nearly impossible to predict the result of three or more different kinds of perturbations, although long-range effects can be observed. One case in point is waterfowl; while their ingestion of lead shot, harvesting by hunters during migration, and loss of habitat have caused waterfowl populations to decline, the proportional responsibility of these factors has not been determined.

Further examples show multiplicative effects of similar actions, effects with long time lags, diffuse processes in the landscape that may have concentrated effects on a component subsystem, and a variety of other interactions of increasing complexity. Not only is more information needed at all levels; impacts must be assessed on a landscape or regional scale to produce informed management decisions. I conclude that a system of replicate wetland reserves that are allowed to interact naturally with the surrounding landscape will be more effective in preserving biotic diversity than isolated sanctuaries.

Key words

Cumulative impacts Landscape ecology Vertebrate biodiversity Wetland habitat Wetland impacts 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Abernethy, Y., and R. Turner. 1987. U.S. forested wetlands: Status and changes, 1940–1980.BioScience 37(10):721–727.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, J. 1978. Dusky seaside sparrow. Pages 16–19in H. Kale II (ed.), Rare and endangered biota of Florida, vol. 2. Birds. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.Google Scholar
  3. Barrett, G., and R. Rosenberg (eds.). 1981. Stress effects on natural ecosystems. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 305 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Bormann, F. H., and G. E. Likens. 1979. Pattern and process in a forested ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York, 253 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Branan, W. (ed.). 1986. Survival of the Florida panther, a discussion of issues and accomplishments. Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tallahassee, Florida, 67 pp.Google Scholar
  6. Bray, J. R. 1956. Gap phase replacement in a maple-bass-wood forest.Ecology 37:598–600.Google Scholar
  7. Briggs, S., and J. Criswell. 1979. Gradual silencing of spring in Washington.Atlantic Naturalist 32:19–26.Google Scholar
  8. Brinson, M. M. 1988. Strategies for Assessing the Cumulative Effects of Wetland Alteration on Water Quality.Environmental Management 12:xx-xx.Google Scholar
  9. Brittingham, M., and S. Temple. 1983. Have cowbirds caused forest songbirds to decline?BioScience 33:31–35.Google Scholar
  10. Bull, J. 1980. Sex determination in reptiles.Quarterly Review of Biology 55:3–21.Google Scholar
  11. Cain, S. A. 1966. Biotope and habitat. Pages 38–54in F. F. Darling and J. P. Milton (eds.), Man's role in changing the face of the earth. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  12. Cely, J. 1979. Status of the swallow-tailed kite and factors affecting its distribution. Pages 144–150in D. Forsythe and W. Ezell Jr. (eds.), Proceedings of the First South Carolina Endangered Species Symposium. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Columbia, South Carolina.Google Scholar
  13. Chase, A. 1986. Playing God in Yellowstone. Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, 446 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Chepko-Sade, B., and Z. Halpin (eds.). 1987. Mammalian dispersal patterns. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 342 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Craighead, F., and J. Craighead. 1956. Hawks, owls, and wildlife. Stackpole, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 443 pp.Google Scholar
  16. Cronin, W. 1983. Changes in the land. Hill and Wang, New York, 241 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Crosby, S. 1986. Ecological imperalism, the biological expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 368 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Deems, E., and D. Pursley (eds). 1983. North American furbearers, a contemporary reference. Worldwide Furbearer Conference, Washington, DC, 217 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Dobrowski, K. 1973. Role of birds in Polish wetland ecosystems.Polish Archives of Hydrobiology 20:217–221.Google Scholar
  20. Elton, C. 1966. The pattern of animal communities. Methuen, New York, 432 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Errington, P. L. 1963. Muskrat populations. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, 665 pp.Google Scholar
  22. Esch, G., J. Gibbons, and J. Bourque. 1975. An analysis of the relationship between stress and parasitism.American Midland Naturalist 93:339–353.Google Scholar
  23. Forman, R. T. T., and M. Godron. 1986. Landscape ecology. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 619 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Frankel, O., and M. Soule. 1981. Conservation and evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 327 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Franz, K. (ed.). 1982. Invertebrates, vol. 6. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 131 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Frayer, W., T. Monahan, D. Bowden, and F. Graybill. 1983. Status and trends of wetlands and deepwater habitats in the conterminous United States, 1950s to 1970s. Published for US Fish and Wildlife Service by the Department of Forest and Wood Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, 31 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Friedmann, H. 1929. The cowbirds, a study in the biology of social parasitism. Charles Thomas, Baltimore, Maryland, 421 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Gilbert, L. 1980. Food web organization and the conservation of neotropical diversity. Pages 11–33in M. Soule and B. Wilcox (eds.), Conservation biology. Sinauer, Sunderland, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  29. Gillham, M. 1956. Ecology of the Pembrokeshire Islands. V. Manuring by the colonial seabirds and mammals, with a note on seed distribution by gulls.Journal of Ecology 44:429–454.Google Scholar
  30. Gilmer, D., M. Miller, R. Bauer, and J. LeDonne. 1982. California's central valley wintering waterfowl: Concerns and challenges.Transactions of the North American Wildlife Natural Resources Conference 47:441–452.Google Scholar
  31. Gipson, P. 1974. Food habits of coyotes in Arkansas.Journal of Wildlife Management 38:848–853.Google Scholar
  32. Hamel, P. 1986. Bachman's warbler: A species in peril. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 110 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Hamel, P., H. LeGrand Jr., M. Lennartz, and S. Gauthreaux, Jr. 1982. Bird-habitat relationships on southeastern forest lands. US Forest Service General Technical Report SE 22, U.S. Forest Service, Washington, DC, 417 pp.Google Scholar
  34. Harris, L. 1978. El pantano de los espanoles: A job completion report on the interpretation and management of Spanish Pond, Fort Caroline National Memorial. School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 197 pp + appendix.Google Scholar
  35. Harris, L. 1984. The fragmented forest: Application of island biogeography principles to preservation of biotic diversity. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 211 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Harris, L. 1985. Conservation corridors: A highway system for wildlife. ENFO Report of the Florida Conservation Foundation, Winter Park, Florida, 10 pp.Google Scholar
  37. Harris, L., and J. Eisenberg. 1988. Enhanced linkages: Necessary steps for success in conservation of faunal diversity.In M. Pearl and D. Western (eds.), Conservation 2100. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  38. Harris, L., and L. Gosselink. 1988. Cumulative impacts of bottomland hardwood conversion on hydrology, water quality, and terrestrial wildlife. Chapterin J. Gosselink, L. Lee, and T. Muir (eds.), Bottomland hardwood wetlands: ecological and regulatory perspective, in press.Google Scholar
  39. Harris, L., and T. O'Meara. 1988. Changes in southeastern bottomland forests and impacts on vertebrate fauna.In R. Sharitz and J. Gibbons (eds.), Freshwater wetlands and wildlife. Oak Ridge Press, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in press.Google Scholar
  40. Harris, L., and R. Wallace. 1984. Breeding bird species in Florida forest fragments. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 38:87–96.Google Scholar
  41. Hughes, R. 1966. Fire ecology of canebrakes.Proceedings of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 5:148–158.Google Scholar
  42. Hughes, R., E. Dillard, and J. Hilmon. 1960. Vegetation and cattle response under two systems of grazing cane range in North Carolina. North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 412, 27 pp.Google Scholar
  43. Kale, H. 1977. Dusky seaside sparrow.Florida Naturalist 50:16–21.Google Scholar
  44. Keith, J., and I. Gruchy. 1970. Residue levels of chemical pollutants in North American birdlife.In Proceedings of the 15th International Ornithological Congress, E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  45. Kushlan, J. 1979. Design and management of continental wildlife reserves: Lessons from the Everglades.Biological Conservation 15:281–290.Google Scholar
  46. Kushlan, J. 1983. Special species and ecosystem preserves: Colonial waterbirds in US national parks.Environmental Management 7:201–207.Google Scholar
  47. Kushlan, J. 1987. External threats and internal management: The hydrologic regulation of the Everglades, Florida, USA.Environmental Management 11:109–119.Google Scholar
  48. Kushlan, J., and D. White. 1977. Nesting wading bird populations in southern Florida.Florida Scientist 40:65–72.Google Scholar
  49. Kushlan, J., G. Morales, and P. Frohring. 1985. Foraging niche relations of wading birds in tropical wet savannas.Ornithological Monographs 36:663–682.Google Scholar
  50. Leentvaar, P. 1967. Observations in guanotrophic environments.Hydrobiologia 29/30:441–489.Google Scholar
  51. Lincer, J. L., and J. A. Sherburne. 1974. Organochlorines in kestrel prey: A North-South dichotomy.Journal of Wildlife Management 38(3):427–434.Google Scholar
  52. Lowery, G. 1974. The mammals of Louisiana and its adjacent waters. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 565 pp.Google Scholar
  53. MacClintock, L., R. Whitcomb, and B. Whitcomb. 1977. Evidence for the value of corridors and minimization of isolation in preservation of biotic diversity.American Birds 31:6–16.Google Scholar
  54. MacDonald, P., W. Frayer, and J. Clauser. 1979. Documentation, chronology, and future predictions of bottomland hardwood habitat losses in the lower Mississippi alluvial plain, vols. 1 and 2. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, Mississippi, 133 pp. and 259 pp.Google Scholar
  55. Mayr, E. 1982. The growth of biological thought. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 974 pp.Google Scholar
  56. Morreale, S., G. Ruiz, J. Spotila, and E. Standora. 1982. Temperature-dependent sex determination: Current practices threaten conservation of sea turtles.Science 216:1245–1247.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Noss, R., and L. D. Harris. 1986. Nodes, networks, and MUMs: Preserving biotic diversity at all scales.Environmental Management 10:299–309.Google Scholar
  58. Nowak, R. 1972. The mysterious wolf of the south.Natural History 81:50–53, 74–77.Google Scholar
  59. Odum, E. P. 1985. Trends expected in stressed ecosystems.BioScience 35:419–422.Google Scholar
  60. Odum, E. P., J. T. Finn, and E. H. Franz. 1979. Perturbation theory and the subsidy-stress gradient.BioScience 29:349–352.Google Scholar
  61. Odum, W., and E. Heald. 1972. Trophic analysis of an estuarine ecosystem.Bulletin of Marine Science 22:671–738.Google Scholar
  62. Ogden, J. 1978. Freshwater marshlands and wading birds in south Florida. Page xviin H. Kale (ed.), Rare and endangered biota of Florida, vol. 2. Birds. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.Google Scholar
  63. Ogden, J., W. Loftus, and W. Robertson, Jr. 1987. Wood storks, wading birds, freshwater fishes. Unpublished report to US Army Corps of Engineers in preparation of a General Design Memorandum for south Florida water management. US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, Florida.Google Scholar
  64. Ohlendorf, H. 1985. Aquatic birds and selenium in the San Joaquin Valley. Pages 15–24 in Symposium Proceedings: Selenium and Agricultural Drainage, vol. 2. Bay Institute of San Francisco, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of California, Berkeley, California.Google Scholar
  65. Ohlendorf, H. 1986. Bioaccumulation and effects of selenium in wildlife. Symposium Proceedings: Selenium in Irrigated Agriculture. American Society of Agronomy, in press.Google Scholar
  66. Ohlendorf, H., R. Hothem, C. Bunck, T. Aldrich, and J. Moore. 1986a. Relationships between selenium concentrations and avian reproduction.Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 51:330–342.Google Scholar
  67. Ohlendorf, H., D. Hoffman, M. Saiki, and T. Aldrich. 1986b. Embryonic mortality and abnormalities of aquatic birds: Apparent impacts of selenium from irrigation drainwater.Science in the Total Environment 52:49–63.Google Scholar
  68. Ohlendorf, H., R. Hothem, T. Aldrich, and A. Krynitsky. 1987. Selenium contamination of the grasslands, a major California waterfowl area.Science and the Total Environment 53, in press.Google Scholar
  69. Onuf, C. J. Teal, and I. Valiela. 1977. Interactions of nutrients, plant growth, and herbivory in a mangrove ecosystem.Ecology 58:514–526.Google Scholar
  70. Penn, G. H. 1950. Utilization of Crawfishes by cold-blooded vertebrates in the eastern United States.American Midland Naturalist 44:643–658.Google Scholar
  71. Perkins, C. 1973. Effects of clearcutting and site preparation on the vegetation and wildlife in the flatwoods of Kemper county, Mississippi. Dissertation. Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, 236 pp.Google Scholar
  72. Presser, T., and H. Ohlendorf. 1988. Biogeochemical cycling of selenium in the San Joaquin Valley, California, USA.Environmental Management 11:805–821.Google Scholar
  73. Richardson, C. 1981. Pocosin wetlands: An integrated analysis of coastal plain freshwater bogs in North Carolina. Hutchinson Ross Publishing Company, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, 364 pp.Google Scholar
  74. Richter, A., and R. Labisky. 1985. Reproductive dynamics among disjunct white-tailed deer herds in Florida.Journal of Wildlife Management 49:964–971.Google Scholar
  75. Robbins, C. 1979. Effect of forest fragmentation on bird populations. Pages 198–212in R. DeGraaf and K. Evans (eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop on Management of North Central and Northeastern Forests for Nongame Birds. US Forest Service GTR NC51, US Forest Service, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  76. Robbins, C. 1980. Effect of forest fragmentation on breeding bird populations in the Piedmont of the mid-Atlantic region.Atlantic Naturalist 33:31–36.Google Scholar
  77. Robbins, C., D. Bystrak, and P. Geissler. 1986. The breeding bird survey: Its first fifteen years, 1965–1979. US Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Publication 157, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, 196 pp.Google Scholar
  78. Robertson, W., and J. Kushlan. 1974. The southern Florida avifauna. Pages 414–452 m P. Gleason (ed.), Environments of south Florida: Past and present. Miami Geological Society Memoir 2, Miami, Florida.Google Scholar
  79. Roelke, M. 1986. Medical management, biomedical findings, and research techniques. Pages 7–14in Survival of the Florida panther: A discussion of issues and accomplishments. Conference Proceedings, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tallahassee, Florida.Google Scholar
  80. Root, R. B. 1973. Organization of a plant-anthropod association in simple and diverse habitats: The fauna of collards (Brassica oleracea).Ecological Monographs 43:95–124.Google Scholar
  81. Rottiers, D., and R. Tucker. 1981. Proximate composition and caloric content of eight Lake Michigan fishes. US Fish and Wildlife Service Technical Paper 108, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, 8 pp.Google Scholar
  82. Rykiel, E. J., Jr. 1985. Towards a definition of ecological disturbance.Australian Journal of Ecology 10:361–365.Google Scholar
  83. Schonewald-Cox, C., and J. Bayless. 1986. The boundary model: A geographical analysis of design and conservation of nature reserves.Biological Conservation 38:305–322.Google Scholar
  84. Schramm, H. Jr., M. Collopy, and E. Okrah. 1987. Potential problems of bird prediation for fish culture in Florida.Progressive in Fish Culturist 49:44–49.Google Scholar
  85. Schultz, A. 1985. Background and recent history. Symposium Proceedings: Selenium and Agricultural Drainage, vol. 2. Pages 3–9in Bay Institute of San Francisco, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of California, Berkeley, California.Google Scholar
  86. Sharp, B. 1970. A population estimate of the dusky seaside sparrow.Wilson Bulletin 8:158–166.Google Scholar
  87. Shaw, J., and P. Jordan. 1977. The wolf that lost its genes.Natural History 86:80–88.Google Scholar
  88. Sheffield, R., N. Cost, W. Bechfold, J. McClure. 1985. Pine growth reductions in the Southeast. US Department of Agriculture Resource Bulletin SE-83, Asheville, North Carolina, 112 pp.Google Scholar
  89. Shepherd, W., E. Dillard, and H. Lucas. 1951. Grazing and fire influences in pond pine forests. North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 97, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 56 pp.Google Scholar
  90. Shugart, H. H. 1984. A theory of forest dynamics. Springer-Verlag, New York, 278 pp.Google Scholar
  91. Smith, V. 1979. The influence of seabird manuring on the phosphorus status of Marion Island (subantarctic) soils.Oecologia (Berlin) 41:123–126.Google Scholar
  92. Snyder, N., and J. Wiley. 1976. Sexual size dimorphism in hawks and owls of North America.Ornithological Monographs 20:96 pp.Google Scholar
  93. Sprunt, A. 1967. Values of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast marshes and estuaries to birds other than waterfowl. Proceedings of the Marsh and Estuary Management Symposium, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Google Scholar
  94. Tanji, K., A. Lauchli, and J. Meyer. 1986. Selenium in the San Joaquin Valley.Environment 28:38–49.Google Scholar
  95. Temple, S. 1986. Predicting impacts of habitat fragmentation on forest birds: A comparison of two models. Pages 301–304in. J. Verner, M. Morrison, and C. Ralph (eds.), Wildlife 2000. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  96. Terborgh, J. 1986. Keystone plant resources in the tropical forest. Pages 330–344 in M. Soule (ed.), Conservation biology: The science of scarcity and diversity. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  97. Truett, J., and D. Lay. 1984. Land of bears and honey. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, 176 pp.Google Scholar
  98. USFWS (Fish and Wildlife Service). 1979a. Dusky seaside sparrow. Species accountin Endangered and threatened species of the southeastern United States. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia.Google Scholar
  99. USFWS (Fish and Wildlife Service). 1979b. Red wolf. Species accountin Endangered and threatened species of the southeastern United States. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia.Google Scholar
  100. USFWS (Fish and Wildlife Service). 1987. Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi). Recovery plan. Prepared by the Florida Panther Interagency Committee for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia, 92 pp.Google Scholar
  101. USFWS (Fish and Wildlife Service), n.d. Bottomland hard-woods along the Mississippi: A disappearing resource. Brochure. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, Mississippi.Google Scholar
  102. USFWS (Fish and Wildlife Service) and Canadian Wildlife Service. 1985. Status of waterfowl and fall flight forecasts. Washington, DC, 32 pp.Google Scholar
  103. Ward, C. 1914. Florida's wealth of bird life. Chapter 12in G. Chapin (ed.), Florida, 1513–1913, four hundred years of wars and peace and industrial development. S.J. Clarke, Chicago, Illinois.Google Scholar
  104. Watson, A. 1986. Nutrient-production relations at Seahorse Key Lagoon, Florida: Some consequences of shorebird accumulations. M.S. thesis. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 87 pp.Google Scholar
  105. Whitcomb, R., C. Robbins, J. Lynch, B. Whitcomb, M. Klimkiewicz, and D. Bystrak. 1981. Effects of forest fragmentation on avifauna of the eastern deciduous forest. Pages 125–206in R. Burgess and D. Sharpe (eds.), Forest island dynamics in man-dominated landscapes. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  106. Whittaker, R. 1960. Vegetation of the Siskuyu Mountains, Oregon and California.Ecological Monographs 30:279–338.Google Scholar
  107. Wilcove, D. 1985. Forest fragmentation and the decline of migratory songbirds. Ph.D. Dissertation. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.Google Scholar
  108. Wilcove, D., C. McLellan, and A. Dobson. 1986. Habitat fragmentation in the temperate zone. Pages 237–256in M. Soule (ed.), Conservation biology: The science of scarcity and diversity. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larry D. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Range Sciences School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations