Date of this Version
Published in Biological Conservation 132 (2006) 239-249. Doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2006.04.002
Coastal habitats near urban centres in North Atlantic estuaries often support substantial numbers of wintering waterfowl, but little is known of the effects of landscape setting and urbanisation on habitat use. We conducted surveys of waterfowl at 32 wintering sites in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, to identify characteristics that may influence habitat use. Sites were chosen along a gradient of urbanisation and reflected the dominant habitat types used by waterfowl in the Bay. Mean waterfowl abundance was 206.7 ± 209.5 birds per site, and sites in the inner part of the estuary had higher overall waterfowl abundances (r2 = 0.40, p = 0.021). Species richness ranged from 3.2 to 13.0 and decreased with increasing hunting activity (r2 = 0.36, p = 0.040). Hunting activity and habitat characteristics (e.g., latitude, shoreline configuration, prey density) explained 13–27% of the variation in waterfowl abundance and species richness among sites, but landscape characteristics (e.g., surrounding residential development, vegetated land, or wetland surrounding the sites and the extent of wetland edge) explained an additional 1–26%. The landscape characteristics extent of adjacent residential development and vegetated upland were the most common variables entering into the models; most species were more abundant at sites with more adjacent vegetated upland and less adjacent residential development. Our results suggest that landscape setting may be influencing the distribution of wintering waterfowl, and should be considered when developing strategies for the conservation for these species in urban North Atlantic estuaries.