Wetland waterbird food resources increased by harvesting invasive cattails

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Shane C. Lishawa , Eric M. Dunton , Douglas R. Pearsall , Andrew M. Monks , Kurtis B. Himmler , Brendan D. Carson, Brian Loges, Dennis A. Albert

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Conserving freshwater marsh waterbird communities in the Laurentian Great Lakes requires managing invasive emergent macrophytes, which degrade bird habitat by creating dense, litter-clogged stands, and excluding plant species that provide high-energy food resources. An approach to managing invasive macrophytes in the region involves herbiciding, which stimulates native plant and seed production, but does not address the accumulation of plant litter. Here, we experimentally evaluated the effects of an alternative approach, harvesting invasive plants and their litter followed by flooding, on plant communities including high-energy annual wetland plant populations. At the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan, we experimentally treated an invasive cattail (Typha and glauca) dominated wetland in three consecutive years, comparing three treatments: sediment surface harvest, above ground harvest, and control. We monitored these treatments for waterbird-food producing plant species and plant diversity. We used waterbird use-day data collected at the unit-scale and compared values with satellite imagery-derived land cover changes. Compared to control plots, harvesting and flooding significantly increased plant species richness, increased the abundance of seed and tuber producing plant species 5-fold, and increased annual plant dominance by more than 10-times, while reducing Typha dominance and litter abundance. Over the three year experiment, use-days increased for dabbling ducks and wading birds, associated with reduced Typha cover, increased open water, and non-Typha emergent vegetation cover. Harvesting invasive plant biomass promoted a plant community composition and structure that benefits waterbirds. This approach is particularly powerful when coupled with flooding, which results in increased mortality of emergent invasive plants.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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