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A Potential Role of Shrimp Farms for the Conservation of Nearctic Shorebird Populations

Abstract

Shrimp aquaculture farms have greatly expanded at tropical areas worldwide, especially during the past three decades. One of the main core areas of this expansion was the northwestern coast of Mexico, prompting conservation concern for the shorebird populations that spend the nonbreeding period (October to March) in the region. We conducted a series of counts and behavioral observations to evaluate the importance of a shrimp farm as foraging habitat for shorebirds, relative to adjacent intertidal areas, during and after the shrimp harvest period at a tropical wetland in Sinaloa, Mexico, 2012 and 2013. Overall, low-tide counts within the entire wetland had an average of 3,168 ± 605 (SE) shorebirds during the shrimp harvest period (October–November) and subsequently dropped to 1,408 ± 373 birds following harvest (December to January), when shrimp ponds were emptied and foraging opportunities were reduced. The proportion of counts at the shrimp farm relative to total counts over the entire wetland ranged from 10 to 80 % for different shorebird species and dropped to 0 to 10 % in the postharvest period. During the harvesting period, black-necked stilt, American avocet, willet, and whimbrel selected shrimp ponds over intertidal areas to forage during low tide, while marbled godwit, western sandpiper, and dowitchers did not. The proportion of shorebirds observed feeding at the shrimp farm ranged between 60 and 90 % for most species and did not differ between low- and high-tide counts. These results suggest that shrimp farms can provide ephemeral but important complementary foraging areas for shorebirds, and appropriate management of existing farms may aid in conservation efforts for these species.

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Acknowledgments

This project has been carried out thanks to funding contributions to JGN by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada. We also thank A. Castillo-Guerrero, A. Leal, M. Cruz, and C. Franco for field support. S. Rendón Rodríguez and C. Suárez helped during different stages of this project. Bob Elner supported the project from its first draft. We thank James Lovvorn, Nils Warnock, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the manuscript. José Luis Ochoa and Jorge Zavala kindly help us in standardizing tidal terminology. We are in debt to Acuícola Don Jorge, its owners, biologists, and all staff, especially Orlando Obeso and the Watson family who allowed us to work in the shrimp farm during the 2012 and 2013 harvesting seasons.

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Correspondence to Juan G. Navedo.

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Communicated by James Lovvorn

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Navedo, J.G., Fernández, G., Fonseca, J. et al. A Potential Role of Shrimp Farms for the Conservation of Nearctic Shorebird Populations. Estuaries and Coasts 38, 836–845 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-014-9851-0

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Keywords

  • Coastal management
  • Complementary habitats
  • Foraging behavior
  • Habitat selection
  • Tropical wetlands