The importance of artificial wetlands for birds: A case study from Cyprus.
ABSTRACT: The degradation of natural wetlands has significant effects on the ecosystem services they provide and the biodiversity they sustain. Under certain conditions, these negative effects can be mitigated by the presence of artificial wetlands. However, the conservation value of artificial wetlands needs to be explored further. In addition, it is unclear how certain anthropogenic variables, such as road networks and hunting reserves (i.e., areas where hunting of birds is prohibited) affect biodiversity in both artificial and natural wetlands. Here, we use data from thirteen artificial and six natural wetlands in Cyprus, to assess their similarities in bird species diversity and composition, and to quantify the relationship between species diversity and the density of road networks, hunting reserves, wetland size, and wetland depth. We found that while on average natural wetlands have more species and support higher abundances, certain artificial wetlands have the potential to support similarly diverse communities. Overall, regardless of the type, larger wetlands, with shallower waters tend to be more biodiverse. The same is true for wetlands surrounded by a higher percentage of hunting reserves and a lower density of road networks, albeit the effect of road networks was weaker. We conclude, from our results, that although the conservation value of natural wetlands is higher, artificial wetlands have the potential to play a complimentary role in the conservation of bird communities, assuming those wetlands have the right characteristics (e.g., in terms of size and depth) and assuming that the disturbances resulting from high-impact human-activities (e.g., hunting) are minimized.
Project description:Accelerated degradation of the wetlands and fragmentation of surrounding vegetation in the Andean-Orinoco Piedmont are the main threats to diversity and ecological integrity of these ecosystems; however, information on this topic is of limited availability. In this region, we evaluated the value of 37 lentic wetlands as reservoirs of woody and aquatic plants and analyzed diversity and changes in species composition within and among groups defined according to management given by: (1) type (swamps, heronries, rice fields, semi-natural lakes, constructed lakes and fish farms) and (2) origins (natural, mixed and artificial). A total of 506 plant species were recorded: 80% woody and 20% aquatic. Of these, 411 species (81%) were considered species typical of the area (Meta Piedmont distribution). Diversity patterns seem to be driven by high landscape heterogeneity and wetland management. The fish farms presented the highest diversity of woody plants, while swamps ranked highest for aquatic plant diversity. Regarding wetland origin, the artificial systems were the most diverse, but natural wetlands presented the highest diversity of typical species and can therefore be considered representative ecosystems at the regional scale. Our results suggest that lentic wetlands act as refuges for native vegetation of Meta Piedmont forest, hosting 55% of the woody of Piedmont species and 29% of the aquatic species of Orinoco basin. The wetlands showed a high species turnover and the results indicated that small wetlands (mean ± SD: size = 11 ± 18.7 ha), with a small area of surrounding forest (10 ± 8.6 ha) supported high local and regional plant diversity. To ensure long-term conservation of lentic wetlands, it is necessary to develop management and conservation strategies that take both natural and created wetlands into account.
Project description:Tracking long-term environmental change is important, particularly for freshwater ecosystems, often with high rates of decline. Waterbirds are key indicators of freshwater ecosystem change, with groups reflecting food availability (e.g. piscivores and fish). We store waterbird (species abundance, numbers of nests and broods) and wetland area data from aerial surveys of waterbirds across Australia, mostly at the species' level (?100 species) from three aerial survey programs: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey, National Survey and Murray-Darling Basin wetlands. Across eastern Australia, we survey up to 2,000 wetlands annually (October, since 1983), along 10 survey bands (30?km wide), east to west across about one third of Australia. In 2008, we surveyed 4,858 wetlands across Australia and each year (since 2010) we survey the major wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. These data inform regulation of hunting seasons in Victoria and South Australia, Game bird culling in NSW, State of the Environment Reporting, environmental assessments, river and wetland management, the status of individual species and identification of high conservation sites.
Project description:Nestedness has been a research focus in fields of island biogeography and community ecology in recent decades. Although nestedness of faunal assemblages has been investigated in natural wetlands, it remains largely unknown whether and why waterbird communities in artificial wetlands follow nested patterns. We examined the existence of nestedness and underlying drivers in waterbird communities in subsidence wetlands that are recently created by large-scale underground coal mining in the North China Plain. Twelve point-count surveys for waterbirds were undertaken approximately every 2 weeks in 55 subsidence wetlands from September 2016 to April 2017. We used the metric WNODF to estimate nestedness of the assemblages. Partial Spearman rank correlations were performed to examine the association between the nestedness and habitat variables (wetland area, landscape connectivity, wetland age, and habitat diversity) as well as life-history traits (body size, clutch size, dispersal ratio, geographical range size, and migrant status) related to species extinction risk and colonization rate. Waterbird assemblages in the subsidence wetlands were significantly nested. After controlling for other independent variables, the magnitude of nestedness was significantly and negatively correlated with wetland area and species trait linked to extinction risk (i.e., geographical range size). Our results indicate that selective extinction may be the main driver of the nestedness of waterbird assemblages in our study system. However, the nestedness was not due to passive sampling, selective colonization, or habitat diversity. From a conservation viewpoint, both large wetlands and waterbirds with a small geographic range should be protected to maximize the preserved species richness.
Project description:Coastal wetland ecosystems have experienced serious losses of area and ecological function and are currently facing worldwide challenges due to coastal development and global climate change. This study attempted to explore patterns and possible factors driving loss of natural coastal wetlands due to land conversion (permanent loss) and ecological degradation (temporal loss) in three urbanizing coastal city clusters, China in the period of 1990-2015. The natural coastal wetland area was substantially lost due to land conversion highly related to regional economic development. The ecological degradation, assessed as a function of surface water quality, resulted in much greater impairment area of natural coastal wetlands. This impairment was predominantly driven by inbound river pollutants' discharge, rather than local discharge. This study suggests that the ecological degradation should be considered as well as the land conversion loss for conserving the remaining natural coastal wetland ecosystems. The pollutant discharges from the inbound river watersheds need to be mitigated as the local discharges for reducing the functional degradation of the natural coastal wetlands while the regional economic development plan should consider the conservation needs of the remaining natural coastal wetlands worldwide.
Project description:Urbanization is among the largest threats to wildlife populations through factors such as fragmentation, isolation, and habitat destruction. Urban open spaces, such as parks and golf courses, have the potential to provide wildlife with suitable habitat within an urbanized matrix. These refugia may be particularly important for amphibians, which represent one of the most endangered and least vagile vertebrate groups on earth. During the spring and summer of 2018, we conducted surveys to determine the presence of anurans at 51 wetland sites within the Piedmont ecoregion of South Carolina. Nearly one-third of these wetlands were located within urban open spaces, one-third in low development areas, and one-third in highly developed areas. Impervious surface and total road length surrounding the wetlands were measured at two scales, a core habitat scale (300 m) and average maximum migration scale (750 m), and we measured several within-wetland habitat variables. Urban Open Space wetlands had levels of surrounding impervious surface similar to High Urbanization wetlands at the larger scale and were intermediate between Low and High Urbanization wetlands at the smaller scale. The total length of road segments occurring within buffers (at both scales) surrounding our study wetlands was higher for Urban Open Space compared to Low and High Urbanization sites. Among the within-wetland variables measured, Low Urbanization sites had higher canopy cover and were more likely to have a terrestrial buffer zone relative to the other categories. Species richness decreased significantly as total road length increased among all wetlands. Wetland category was not a significant driver explaining species richness, but ?-diversity was more variable among Urban Open Space wetlands than either Low or High Urbanization wetlands. Urban Open Space wetlands did not appear to increase suitability for anurans relative to High Urbanization wetlands. Urban Open Space wetlands had higher variability in species composition, which was perhaps attributable to the diversity among sites represented in the Urban Open Space category.
Project description:Soil concentrations of 12 heavy metals that have been linked to various anthropogenic activities were measured in samples collected from the uppermost horizon in approximately 1000 wetlands across the conterminous US as part of the 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA). The heavy metals were silver (Ag), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), antimony (Sb), tin (Sn), vanadium (V), tungsten (W), and zinc (Zn). Using thresholds to distinguish natural background concentrations from human-mediated additions, we evaluated wetland soil heavy metal concentrations in the conterminous US and four regions using a Heavy Metal Index (HMI) that reflects human-mediated heavy metal loads based on the number of elements above expected background concentration. We also examined the individual elements to detect concentrations of heavy metals above expected background that frequently occur in wetland soils. Our data show that wetland soils of the conterminous US typically have low heavy metal loads, and that most of the measured elements occur nationally in concentrations below thresholds that relate to anthropogenic activities. However, we found that soil lead is more common in wetland soils than other measured elements, occurring nationally in 11.3% of the wetland area in concentrations above expected natural background (>?35 ppm). Our data show positive relationships between soil lead concentration and four individual landscape metrics: road density, percent impervious surface, housing unit density, and population density in a 1-km radius buffer area surrounding a site. These relationships, while evident on a national level, are strongest in the eastern US, where the highest road densities and greatest population densities occur. Because lead can be strongly bound to wetland soils in particular, maintenance of the good condition of our nation's wetlands is likely to minimize risk of lead mobilization.
Project description:In West Virginia, USA, there are 24 conservation easement program wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). These wetlands are located on private agricultural land and are passively managed. Due to their location within fragmented agricultural areas, wetlands enrolled in ACEP in West Virginia have the potential to add wetland ecosystem services in areas that are lacking these features. We evaluated ACEP wetlands compared to reference wetlands on public land in West Virginia by using surrounding land cover, vegetative cover, and wetland features and stressors such as the presence or absence of erosion, upland inclusion, algal mats, and evidence of impacts from the surrounding landscape as surrogate measurements of wetland function on 13 ACEP wetlands and 10 reference wetlands. ACEP wetlands had higher percentages of tree coverage and a higher proportion of agricultural land in the areas immediately surrounding the wetland. Reference wetlands had higher percent coverage of emergent vegetation and had a higher proportion of forest in the immediate landscape. Our findings suggest that ACEP wetlands provide valuable early successional and forested wetland cover in a state that is largely forested. Because of this, it is important to maintain and even expand ACEP in West Virginia to continue providing a valuable source of early successional wetland habitat.
Project description:Conservation authorities invest heavily in the restoration and/or creation of wetlands to counteract the destruction of habitat caused by urbanization. Monitoring the colonization of these new wetlands is critical to an adaptive management process. We conducted a turtle mark-recapture survey in a 250 ha artificially created wetland complex in a large North American city (Toronto, Ontario). We found that two of Ontario's eight native turtle species (Snapping turtle (SN), Chelydra serpentina, and Midland Painted (MP) turtle, Chrysemys picta marginata) were abundant and both were confirmed nesting. The Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) was present but not well established. Species richness and turtle density were not equally distributed throughout the wetland complex. We noted SN almost exclusively populated one water body, while other areas of the wetland had a varying representation of both species. The sex ratios of both SN and MP turtles were 1:1. We tracked the movement of Snapping and Blanding's turtles and found that most turtles explored at least two water bodies in the park, that females explored more water bodies than males, and that 95% of turtles showed fidelity to individual overwintering wetlands. We performed DNA analysis of two Blanding's turtles found in the created wetlands and could not assign these turtles to any known profiled populations. The genetic data suggest that the turtles probably belong to a remnant local population. We discuss the implications of our results for connectivity of artificial wetlands and the importance of the whole wetland complex to this turtle assemblage.
Project description:Wetlands support unique biota and provide important ecosystem services. These services are highly threatened due to the rate of loss and relative rarity of wetlands in most landscapes, an issue that is exacerbated in highly modified urban environments. Despite this, critical ecological knowledge is currently lacking for many wetland-dependent taxa, such as insectivorous bats, which can persist in urban areas if their habitats are managed appropriately. Here, we use a novel paired landscape approach to investigate the role of wetlands in urban bat conservation and examine local and landscape factors driving bat species richness and activity. We acoustically monitored bat activity at 58 urban wetlands and 35 nonwetland sites (ecologically similar sites without free-standing water) in the greater Melbourne area, southeastern Australia. We analyzed bat species richness and activity patterns using generalized linear mixed-effects models. We found that the presence of water in urban Melbourne was an important driver of bat species richness and activity at a landscape scale. Increasing distance to bushland and increasing levels of heavy metal pollution within the waterbody also negatively influenced bat richness and individual species activity. Areas with high levels of artificial night light had reduced bat species richness, and reduced activity for all species except those adapted to urban areas, such as the White-striped free-tailed bat (Austronomus australis). Increased surrounding tree cover and wetland size had a positive effect on bat species richness. Our findings indicate that wetlands form critical habitats for insectivorous bats in urban environments. Large, unlit, and unpolluted wetlands flanked by high tree cover in close proximity to bushland contribute most to the richness of the bat community. Our findings clarify the role of wetlands for insectivorous bats in urban areas and will also allow for the preservation, construction, and management of wetlands that maximize conservation outcomes for urban bats and possibly other wetland-dependent and nocturnal fauna.
Project description:The spatial distribution of species has long sparked interest among ecologists and biogeographers, increasingly so in studies of species responses to climate change. However, field studies on spatial patterns of distribution, useful to inform conservation actions at local scales, are still lacking for many regions, especially the tropics. We studied elevational trends and species-area relationships among anurans in wetland habitats within Volcanoes National Park (VNP) in Rwanda, part of the biodiverse Albertine Rift region. In VNP, wetlands are key sites for anuran reproduction, and anurans are likely threatened by wetland desiccation which has occurred for the last few decades. Between 2012 and 2017, we sampled anuran communities in ten VNP wetlands located along an elevational gradient of c. 600 m (from 2,546 to 3,188 m a.s.l.) and found at least eight species, including at least two Albertine Rift Endemics. We show that species richness, diversity, and abundance likely decline with a decrease in wetland size and with an increase in elevation, though additional sampling (e.g., at night) might be needed to derive definite conclusions. Larger wetlands at lower elevations contained most species and individuals, which indicates the potential threat of wetland size reduction (through desiccation) for anuran conservation. However, we also found that wetlands differed in species composition and that some species (e.g., Sclerophrys kisoloensis) were likely restricted in distribution to only a few of the smaller wetlands-suggesting that the conservation of each individual wetland should be prioritized, regardless of size. We propose that all wetlands in VNP require additional conservation measures, which should be based on knowledge gathered through long-term monitoring of anuran communities and research on drivers of wetland decline. Only such extended research will allow us to understand the response of anurans in VNP to threats such as climate change and wetland desiccation.