Do Breeding Bird Communities or Conservation Value Differ Among Forested Wetland Types or Ecoregions in Nova Scotia?

Abstract

Forested wetlands are being lost to development at a higher rate than other wetland types in Nova Scotia despite limited understanding about the ecology of these ecosystems. To examine differences in community composition or conservation value among forested wetland types (peatlands, treed and shrub swamps) or ecoregions (Western, Valley, Fundy Shore), we surveyed breeding birds at 229 sites in western Nova Scotia in 2015 and 2016. We observed 95 species (46% of Nova Scotia’s breeding bird species) and 8971 individuals across all sites. In addition, 5 of 13 (38%) inland (noncoastal) bird species that are listed as at-risk in Nova Scotia were detected. There were more distinct differences in communities among wetland types than ecoregions, shrub swamps and peatlands had significantly more species and higher mean abundances than treed swamps, and Valley Ecoregion sites had the highest species richness and abundance. We also found strong wetland type and ecoregion affinities for particular species. Our results indicate that shrub swamps, particularly in the Valley Ecoregion, have high conservation value and are acting as important refugia for birds in this highly-fragmented landscape. The conservation value of peatlands and treed swamps is also high, partly owing to the at-risk species they support.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Estimates for swamps were obtained by using the totals for treed and shrub swamps from the wetland inventory and then adding stands from the forest inventory (https://novascotia.ca/natr/forestry/gis/forest-inventory.asp) that had depth to water table less than 0.5 m (https://novascotia.ca/natr/forestry/gis/wamdownload.asp), on poorly or imperfectly drained soils and on slopes that were less than or equal to 2% to the treed swamp class if they were dominated by pole-sized or larger black spruce, tamarack or red maple, and to the shrub swamp class if they were dominated by alder (Alnus spp.) or other tall shrub species (designated as “brush” in the forest inventory). Peatland area was taken directly from the wetland inventory.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Duncan Bayne, Alix D’Entremont, Paul Gould, Krista Hilchey, Anne Lambert, Eric Mills, Chris Pepper, Carolyn Towell, David Simpson, Kate Steele and Rick Whitman for help with field work, and Frances MacKinnon and Emily Hale for help with GIS analyses. We are grateful to Mirabai Alexander, Sean Basquill, Peter Bush, Rob Cameron, James Churchill, Mark Elderkin, Randy Milton, Jerry Niemi and Glen Parsons for helpful reviews and discussions about this project, NSDLF Librarian, Tracy Lenfesty, for help locating many supporting references and Amy Marsters for manuscript preparation. The information in this document has been funded wholly by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry. It has been subjected to review by the Wildlife Division of NSDLF and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Department, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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Brazner, J., Achenbach, L. Do Breeding Bird Communities or Conservation Value Differ Among Forested Wetland Types or Ecoregions in Nova Scotia?. Wetlands 40, 811–823 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01222-2

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Keywords

  • Avian community
  • Biodiversity
  • Bog
  • Fen
  • Species at risk
  • NMDS ordination