Protein and energy production in playas: Implications for migratory bird management
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We examined protein and energy production of potential migratory bird foods produced in moist-soil managed versus unmanaged playa wetlands on the Southern High Plains of Texas (SHP) during fall and winter 1994–95 and 1995–96 to assess potential carrying capacity for wintering migratory birds. Total food (seeds and invertebrates) biomass, crude protein production, and gross energy production were greater in managed playas than unmanaged playas. There was no difference in food biomass or energy production between invertebrates and seeds when managed and unmanaged playas were combined, but protein production from invertebrates was greater than production from seeds. The estimated 160,000 ha of unmanaged playa wetland habitat in the SHP produces about 24.3 million kg of seeds and invertebrates, 9.2 million kg of protein, and 108.6 billion kcal of energy. When these playas have water, there are enough seeds and invertebrates to support 3 million ducks for 3 months. However, water is often limited, making much of this habitat unavailable to waterbirds in most years. Therefore, conservation of existing playas should be supplemented with intensive moist-soil management in some areas as the most economical strategy for providing proper nutrition to migratory birds and other wildlife in playas.
Key Wordsenergy invertebrates migratory birds playa wetlands protein seeds Texas
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