Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Supplement 1, pp 207–222 | Cite as

Effects of Local Shoreline and Subestuary Watershed Condition on Waterbird Community Integrity: Influences of Geospatial Scale and Season in the Chesapeake Bay

  • Diann J. Prosser
  • Jessica L. Nagel
  • Shay Howlin
  • Paul R. Marbán
  • Daniel D. Day
  • R. Michael Erwin


In many coastal regions throughout the world, there is increasing pressure to harden shorelines to protect human infrastructures against sea level rise, storm surge, and erosion. This study examines waterbird community integrity in relation to shoreline hardening and land use characteristics at three geospatial scales: (1) the shoreline scale characterized by seven shoreline types: bulkhead, riprap, developed, natural marsh, Phragmites-dominated marsh, sandy beach, and forest; (2) the local subestuary landscape scale including land up to 500 m inland of the shoreline; and (3) the watershed scale >500 m from the shoreline. From 2010 to 2014, we conducted waterbird surveys along the shoreline and open water within 21 subestuaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay during two seasons to encompass post-breeding shorebirds and colonial waterbirds in late summer and migrating and wintering waterfowl in late fall. We employed an Index of Waterbird Community Integrity (IWCI) derived from mean abundance of individual waterbird species and scores of six key species attributes describing each species’ sensitivity to human disturbance, and then used this index to characterize communities in each subestuary and season. IWCI scores ranged from 14.3 to 19.7. Multivariate regression model selection showed that the local shoreline scale had the strongest influence on IWCI scores. At this scale, percent coverage of bulkhead and Phragmites along shorelines were the strongest predictors of IWCI, both with negative relationships. Recursive partitioning revealed that when subestuary shoreline coverage exceeded thresholds of approximately 5% Phragmites or 8% bulkhead, IWCI scores decreased. Our results indicate that development at the shoreline scale has an important effect on waterbird community integrity, and that shoreline hardening and invasive Phragmites each have a negative effect on waterbirds using subestuarine systems.


Chesapeake Bay Shoreline hardening Waterbirds Community integrity Land use Nearshore habitat 



Funding for this study was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR). We thank Shane Heath, Bridget Collins, Peter Osenton, Brian Ho Sung Lee, Lisa Vormwald, and Mary Maxey for assistance with field surveys and Katherine Dale for assistance with graphics. The authors would like to thank Deanna Dawson and three anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments to strengthen earlier versions of this manuscript. The use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_288_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
12237_2017_288_MOESM2_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplemental Table 2 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterBeltsville LabBeltsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Western EcoSystems TechnologyCheyenneUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark HallUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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