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Changing land use and its impact on the habitat suitability for wintering Anseriformes in China's Poyang Lake region

Tang, Xuguang, Li, Hengpeng, Xu, Xibao, Yang, Guishan, Liu, Guihua, Li, Xinyan, Chen, Dongqiang
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.557-558 pp. 296-306
Anseriformes, anthropogenic activities, climate change, environmental indicators, food availability, foraging, habitat conservation, habitats, humans, hydroelectric power, hydrology, lakes, land use change, migratory behavior, migratory birds, models, paddies, ponds, population growth, population size, rivers, shrinkage, surveys, vegetation types, water birds, wetlands, China, Yangtze River
As an internationally important wetland for migratory waterbirds, China's Poyang Lake region has experienced substantial changes in land use during the past two decades owing to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances. Recent dam constructions on the Yangtze River and its tributaries for agriculture and hydroelectric power exert strong effects on the hydrological regimes of this lake. However, few studies have investigated how the land-use changes through time affect the habitat suitability for wintering Anseriformes—the largest community in this region. Thus, it is necessary to timely monitor changes in the habitat quality and understand the potential factors that alter it. In this study, three periods (1995, 2005 and 2014) of typical environmental indicators that have direct impacts on foraging and resting for the Anserformes, including proximity to water (density of lakes, rivers and ponds), human disturbances (density of residences and various road networks), preferred land cover types and food availability (NDVI), are integrated to develop a habitat suitability index model for habitat mapping. The results indicate that long-term lake shrinkage in low-water periods led to greatly expanded wetlands in these years, which provided more suitable habitat for migratory waterfowl. The amount of highly suitable habitat in 2014 was nearly twice as much as in 1995. Recent survey data from 1997 to 2013 also revealed an increase in the population size, and confirmed the improvement of habitat suitability in the Poyang Lake region. Spatial analysis revealed that land use changes contributed most to the improved habitat coverage between 1995 and 2014. However, the relative significances of these transformations for highly suitable and moderately suitable habitats are strikingly different. Increases in wetland and paddy field area are the main reasons for explaining these improvements, respectively. The framework model proposed in this study will help governments to evaluate habitat conservation and restoration for protecting waterbirds in a spatially explicit way.