Landscape Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 95–111 | Cite as

Birds in North American Great Lakes coastal wet meadows: is landscape context important?

  • Samuel K. Riffell
  • Brian E. Keas
  • Thomas M. Burton


Landscape context can influence species richness, abundance, or probability of patch-use by birds. Little is known, however, about the effects of landscape context on birds in wetland-dominated landscapes. This lack of knowledge is alarming because many wetlands are threatened by development and other human impacts, while serving critical functions as migratory, breeding and foraging habitat. To address this lack of knowledge, we censused birds in North American Great Lakes coastal wet meadows located along the northern Lake Huron shoreline in Michigan (USA) during 1997 and 1998. Using a suite of multivariate techniques, we first accounted for effects of area and within-patch habitat characteristics before testing for effects of landscape context. Most bird variables were significantly related to landscape context, and two major patterns were apparent. First, avian species richness, abundance, and probability of patch-use by some species were higher for wet meadows located in complex contexts (adjacent to many patch types) compared to simpler contexts (adjacent to only one patch type). Second, these variables were higher for wet meadows located in wetland contexts compared to contexts that were terrestrial and road-impacted, dominated by open water habitats, or dominated by forested wetland habitats. Conservation plans for wetlands have focused on saving large wetlands and creating the vegetative habitat structure required by birds, but they should go further and explicitly consider the landscape context of wetlands as well. Specifically, wetlands located in complex and/or wetland contexts should have a higher conservation value than similar wetlands located in simpler, more terrestrial contexts.

Birds Great Lakes coastal wetlands Landscape context Michigan Principal component analysis Regression analysis Wet meadows Wetland conservation and management 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel K. Riffell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brian E. Keas
    • 1
    • 3
  • Thomas M. Burton
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Center for Integrative Studies – General ScienceMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesOhio Northern UniversityAdaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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