new paper in the condor
Hot off the press, a new paper on our work with the Prothonotary Warbler Working Group on migratory connectivity. We found nearly all individuals overwintered in northern Colombia, in an area ~20% the size of their breeding range. We further found they made extensive stopovers in Central America during fall migration, highlighting the importance of these areas to their annual cycle. Based on these findings, spatially explicit conservation efforts could have enormous benefits throughout this species' range, but also highlights exposure to potential threats in areas of rapid environmental and sociopolitical change. Find out paper here. Also see press coverage from the Washington Post, Audubon and OSU.
A male Prothonotary Warbler afixed with a light-level geolocator
Congratulations Kristie Stein!!!
Dr. Steven Matthews and Dr. Tonra received a generous SEEDS grant from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center to study interactions between wildlife and trees in light of ongoing oak mesophication. Mesophication refers to the process by which the loss of fire in the landscape shifts oak-hickory dominated forest to beech-maple. As oaks and hickories support enormous abundances of arthropods and food resources in the form of nuts, this can have. In addition to fire, oaks are also dependent on animals to disperse their seeds, and Blue Jays are one of the most effective disperses through their long movements and caching behavior. But if oaks decline, what will this mean for Jays? In turn, if Jays decline, will this have a multiplicative effect on the decline in oak forest? We will be working on precisely these questions by examining long term trends in oak mast (periodic fluctuations in acorn crops), jay population abundance, and designing studies of the impacts oak crops have on overwinter survival and dispersal behavior. We hope our work will go a long way to understanding the impacts of mesophication on wildlife and the feedbacks this can have on this important ecosystem, without altering forest management.
More good news this month, as Ohio Sea Grant generously funded an aspect of our Lake Erie Migratory Bird Ecology research. The funded project, " Emerald ash borer tree mortality and invasive species penetration into forested wetlands in the Lake Erie coastal zone: developing habitat restoration priorities", will examine the interaction between invasive tree pests, invasive wetland plants, and one of the fastest declining birds in North America.
Emerald Ash Borer will fundamentally change forest dynamics when it kills virtually every ash tree in the eastern hardwood region. In forested remnants of the Great Black Swamp of Ohio, we will determine if opening of the canopy from ash mortality results in increased invasion of the understory by species like Phragmites and Reed Canary Grass. These plants could out-compete important native woody understory plants in forested wetlands, like buttonbush and dogwood. We will then examine how changes in habitat structure impact use during migratory stopover by the rapidly declining Rusty Blackbird. This work will compliment Jay Wright's M.S. thesis, which focuses on multiple aspects of Rusty Blackbird migration, a yet to be examined stage of their annual cycle.
Great news for our research on Prothonotary Warblers, Dr. Tonra and Elizabeth Ames received a generous grant from the Columbus Audubon Society to examine the nesting ecology of this iconic species. Our project, "Thinking inside the box: Evaluating the relative value of natural vs. artificial cavities in habitat patches of varying size for Prothonotary Warblers", will fund an important aspect of Liz's thesis, as the bulk of work on this species has focused on birds in artificial nests. Understanding how breeding season limitation of individuals using natural cavities, which is the bulk of the population, is different from those using boxes is critical to conservation efforts. This work will complement other aspects of Liz's thesis, which includes testing for winter to breeding carry-over effects. Thank you Columbus Audubon for supporting our research!