Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture
Collaborates on Shorebird Habitat Research Project
By Gregory Soulliere
East Lansing Field Office
The Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (JV) is a large bird conservation partnership consisting of Midwest government agencies and non-government organizations that share expertise and resources to achieve bird habitat conservation on a large scale.
During the process of developing a JV Implementation Plan, many information gaps and uncertainties in Midwest bird conservation were uncovered. One of the evaluation needs identified by the JV’s Shorebird Committee was to determine the habitat requirements of various shorebird species stopping in the region during migration.
The shores of Lake Erie, in Ohio, serve as a primary shorebird staging area in the Midwest region. This area also accounts for a number of great conservation partners with the interest and resources to manage wetlands for shorebirds. Moreover, as long-term JV partners, Ohio conservation professionals have demonstrated a great business sense, supporting research to help assure their management is more effective and efficient over time. Thus, the Lake Erie wetlands of northwestern Ohio made for an ideal location to determine the types of habitats used by migrating shorebirds, the timing of use, and the length of time shorebirds stop in the Midwest during their seasonal movements: north in spring and south in autumn.
A Semipalmated Plover captured and banded during the Joint Venture-funded research project on wetlands of western Lake Erie. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Greg Soulliere)
A primary assumption used in the JV Shorebird Habitat Conservation Strategy is that food energy is a potentially limiting resource to migrating shorebirds, particularly during spring. JV partners aim to obtain empirical evidence to test this assumption along Lake Erie. Researchers are capturing, marking (leg banding / coloring feathers), and tracking individual shorebirds with observational surveys. They are examining body mass and condition, determining rates of change in body mass per day of migration stopover, and estimating stopover duration at key staging areas. The primary foods of migrating shorebirds are aquatic invertebrates found in wet soils near the water’s edge. Through collection of soil samples and delicate sorting, scientists are determining invertebrate abundance and distribution at wetland sites used (and unused) by shorebirds during both spring and autumn migration.
JV scientists universally seek to determine “what, where, when, how, and how much” habitat is needed for priority bird species when developing regional conservation plans. Results from the Lake Erie shorebird project will be an important addition to the JV’s shorebird conservation effort. The JV planning process uses an adaptive approach -- plan, implement management, evaluate, and adjust management based on evaluation results -- with JV bird conservation strategies being periodically revised as new research findings can be incorporated.
For more information regarding JV-supported projects and the JV Implementation Plan and associated Bird-group Conservation Strategies, visit www.UpperMissGreatLakesJV.org