U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



U.S. Government Work


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117588 Forest Ecology and Management 453 (2019) 117588


Effects of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) on vegetation, soil chemistry and tree health have been documented from their breeding colonies in the northern breeding grounds of Canada and the United States (U.S.) but not for areas within the southeastern United States where breeding activity is relatively novel. We compared vegetation and tree metrics such as structure diversity, and soil chemistry among colony islands, uninhabited islands, and abandoned colony islands within Guntersville Reservoir, a temperate forest ecosystem. Avian diversity and community structure were also quantified on these islands. Concentrations of potassium (K), phosphorus (P) and nitrate (NO3 −) in soil were negatively related to cormorant use, while tree diversity was lower on historic (tree mean=4.35 ± 2.46 species) and colony (tree mean=3.91 ± 3.12 species) islands relative to reference islands (tree mean=9.11 ± 3.88 species). Canopy cover was less (min:<20%), and midstories denser on colony and historic islands relative to reference islands. Avian diversity was significantly lower for colony islands (mean=6 ± 3 species) than both reference (11 ± 7 species) and historic (10 ± 7 species) islands. These effects of cormorant nesting can be seen even after 10 years of colony abandonment supporting that cormorants can have long-term effects on insular habitats in temperate forest ecosystems.