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Multispecies benefits of wetland conservation for marsh birds, frogs, and species at risk

Tozer, Douglas C., Steele, Owen, Gloutney, Mark
Journal of environmental management 2018 v.212 pp. 160-168
Chlidonias niger, Gallinula, Ixobrychus exilis, Pseudacris, cattle, data collection, ducks, frogs, geese, highlands, marshes, monitoring, risk, swans, waterfowl, wetland conservation, wildlife, Great Lakes, Ontario, United States
Wetlands conserved using water level manipulation, cattle exclusion, naturalization of uplands, and other techniques under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (“conservation project wetlands”) are important for ducks, geese, and swans (“waterfowl”). However, the assumption that conservation actions for waterfowl also benefit other wildlife is rarely quantified. We modeled detection and occupancy of species at sites within 42 conservation project wetlands compared to sites within 52 similar nearby unmanaged wetlands throughout southern Ontario, Canada, and small portions of the adjacent U.S., using citizen science data collected by Bird Studies Canada's Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program, including 2 waterfowl and 13 non-waterfowl marsh-breeding bird species (n = 413 sites) and 7 marsh-breeding frog species (n = 191 sites). Occupancy was significantly greater at conservation project sites compared to unmanaged sites in 7 of 15 (47%) bird species and 3 of 7 (43%) frog species, with occupancy being higher by a difference of 0.12–0.38 across species. Notably, occupancy of priority conservation concern or at-risk Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), Sora (Porzana carolina), and Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) was significantly higher at conservation project sites compared to unmanaged sites. The results demonstrate the utility of citizen science to inform wetland conservation, and suggest that actions under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan are effective for conserving non-waterfowl species.