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Non-intertidal habitat use by shorebirds: a reflection of inadequate intertidal resources?
Smart, J.; Gill, J.A. (2003). Non-intertidal habitat use by shorebirds: a reflection of inadequate intertidal resources? Biol. Conserv. 111(3): 359-369. hdl.handle.net/10.1016/S0006-3207(02)00304-X
In: Biological Conservation. Elsevier: Barking. ISSN 0006-3207, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine
Author keywords
    Depletion model; Habitat switch; Foraging behaviour; Supplementary habitat; Waders

Authors  Top 
  • Smart, J.
  • Gill, J.A.

Abstract
    Many species of shorebird typically forage almost exclusively on intertidal habitats. When such strongly maritime species choose to forage on non-intertidal habitats, it may either be a response to deteriorating intertidal conditions or to the discovery of more profitable resources in non-intertidal areas. Methods which allow distinction between these two will clearly be important for identifying problems in intertidal habitats. Since January 1998, turnstone (Arenaria interpres) on the Wash estuary, eastern England have been foraging on the docksides of Port Sutton Bridge (mainly on spilt wheat and fishmeal), fields and river edges, resulting in concern that intertidal food supplies were no longer sufficient to support the population. We quantified the distribution and behaviour of turnstone within the Wash in relation to season, tidal state and weather and used a depletion model to predict the number of turnstone that could be supported by the port, under a range of resource densities and environmental conditions. Numbers of turnstone on non-intertidal habitats increased over the winter and use of the port was significantly greater around high tide and on colder days. The depletion model showed that under virtually all conditions, the port could support a much greater proportion of the turnstone population than current peak numbers. The use of non-intertidal habitats therefore suggests that the preferred intertidal food supplies are not currently capable of supporting the turnstone population throughout the winter. Habitat switches such as this can potentially be important advance warnings of ecological changes for species, which have not yet led to reductions in population size.

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