The Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative was formed to promote restoration of red spruce Picea rubens forests in Central Appalachia. One goal of the initiative is to increase availability and enhance quality of habitat for wildlife, including the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander Plethodon nettingi. The purpose of this research was to compare microhabitat characteristics between an occupied Cheat Mountain salamander site and early-stage spruce restoration sites, and between four occupied sites and proximal non-detection sites. We found that soil pH was higher and soil moisture was lower at spruce restoration sites compared to the occupied site, and that light intensity, sub-canopy air temperature, and ground-level air temperature were higher in spruce restoration prescriptions with reduced canopy cover. We found that soil moisture was higher at occupied sites compared to proximal non-detection sites, but soil pH was not significantly different. Our study suggests that Cheat Mountain salamanders are associated with low soil pH and high soil moisture, and thus spruce restoration could enhance habitat quality for this species in the long-term.
Numerous avian species use anthropogenic materials in constructing nests, particularly in urbanized environments. Anthropogenic materials, including plastics, have been demonstrated to have both beneficial and harmful effects on survival and reproduction. During the spring of 2018, we collected 45 Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus nests in San Marcos, TX, U.S. with two objectives: 1) assess and compare the mass and proportion of nest materials along an urban gradient, and 2) examine the relationship between nest materials, clutch size, and hatching success. We categorized each nest based on collection location as either urban, residential, park or rural and separated nest materials into six categories: leaves, snakeskin, twigs, moss, plastic, and non-plastic artificial materials. We then compared raw mass and proportion of mass of each nest material among urbanization categories. Nests in the urban category were 1.6-1.9 times lighter in mass than nests in other locations along the urban gradient (p = 0.01) and contained 4-5 times greater proportion, but not mass, of plastic compared to nests in all other locations. Nests in residential areas contained the greatest mass of combined anthropogenic materials. Neither clutch size nor hatching success differed based on urbanization category, nest mass, or proportions of anthropogenic or natural nest materials. The differences in mass of nests and increased proportion of plastics could have been due to a lack of natural nesting materials however, we did not estimate availability of nesting materials at any location. Results add to the growing literature that the use of anthropogenic materials in nests varies across an urban gradient, and the effect of anthropogenic materials on nesting parameters varies among species.
Coastal tailed frogs Ascaphus truei inhabit montane streams and forested habitats in the Coast and Cascade Mountains from northern California, USA, to the Skeena River watershed in northwestern British Columbia (BC), Canada. Terrestrial adults and juveniles of this cryptic biphasic species are difficult to survey as they are small, do not vocalize, and may be associated with woody ground structures or subsurface refugia at considerable distances from natal streams. We performed a comparative analysis of the detection rate of post-metamorphic coastal tailed frogs and ecological factors hypothesized to influence detection when conducting visual encounter and pitfall trap surveys. We conducted concurrent surveys in northwestern BC at six sites over similar time periods using both techniques. The average detection rate of visual encounter surveys ( = 0.249, SD = 0.702) was greater than that of pitfall sampling ( = 0.138, SD = 0.773) when cool temperatures and high humidity favor above-ground movement during the daytime. Light-touch ground searches of refuge habitats likely enhanced detection during visual surveys. Although the average detection rate was less, pitfall traps provided 24-hour sampling and were less affected by the experience of the surveyor and the occurrence of ground cover. In general, variation in seasonal behavior influenced detection regardless of method. The relatively higher cost and fixed nature of pitfall traps should be weighed against the ability to apply more cost-effective visual encounter surveys to a greater number of sites.
Long distance, post-release movements of translocated wildlife can be a key factor limiting translocation success. Yet, for many species, we have little or no understanding of factors that influence post-release movements. Translocations have been important for recovering fisher Pekania pennanti populations across the southern portion of their North American range. However, little is known about the post-release movements of translocated fishers and how these movements may be influenced by demographic or translocation-process factors. To restore fishers in Washington State, we moved 90 fishers from central British Columbia and released them at nine sites in the Olympic Fisher Recovery Area on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington from 2008 to 2010. We evaluated post-release movements of 48 fishers to determine both the distance and duration of movements prior to home range establishment. Fishers moved extensively following their release. Multi-model selection indicated a high level of support for the hypothesis that post-release movements differed by fisher sex and age; whereas, year of release had no apparent effect on movements, and release date had only a marginal influence on male movements. Mean distance (± 95% CI) from a release site to a home range was greater for adult males (62.0 ± 19.6 km) than for juvenile males (31.4 ± 16.0 km), adult females (30.9 ± 21.1 km), and juvenile females (29.0 ± 13.5 km). Mean number of days from release until home range establishment was similar for the sexes, however the variance in movement duration was greater for females. Twenty-six of 27 females established home ranges over an 11-month period (December-October), while 19 of 21 males did so within a 4-month period (April-July). Mean home range sizes differed between males (128.3 ± 21.1 km2) and females (63.5 ± 9.0 km2) and were among the largest reported for the species. A greater proportion of females (18 of 27; 67%) than males (8 of 21; 38%) established home ranges within or partially within the recovery area. Six females left a previously established home range during the breeding season, presumably to find breeding males. Given the large distances that fishers can move following release, translocation success could be furthered by releasing individuals at fewer sites in the interior of large reintroduction areas to facilitate greater exposure to a recovery area and greater opportunity to interact with conspecifics and potential mates.
Historically, Cisco Coregonus artedi and deepwater ciscoes Coregonus spp. were the most abundant and ecologically important fish species in the Laurentian Great Lakes, but anthropogenic influences caused nearly all populations to collapse by the 1970s. Fishery managers have begun exploring the feasibility of restoring populations throughout the basin, but questions regarding hatchery propagation and stocking remain. We used historical and contemporary stock-recruit parameters previously estimated for Ciscoes in Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior, with estimates of age-1 Cisco rearing habitat (broadly defined as total ha ≤ 80 m depth) and natural mortality, to estimate how many fry (5.5 months post-hatch), fall fingerling (7.5 months post-hatch), and age-1 (at least 12 months post-hatch) hatchery-reared Ciscoes are needed for stocking in the Great Lakes to mimic recruitment rates in Lake Superior, a lake that has undergone some recovery. Estimated stocking densities suggested that basin-wide stocking would require at least 0.641-billion fry, 0.469-billion fall fingerlings, or 0.343-billion age-1 fish for a simultaneous restoration effort targeting historically important Cisco spawning and rearing areas in Lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario, and Saint Clair. Numbers required for basin-wide stocking were considerably greater than current or planned coregonine production capacity, thus simultaneous stocking in the Great Lakes is likely not feasible. Provided current habitat conditions do not preclude Cisco restoration, managers could maximize the effectiveness of available production capacity by concentrating stocking efforts in historically important spawning and rearing areas, similar to the current stocking effort in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. Other historically important Cisco spawning and rearing areas within each lake (listed in no particular order) include: (1) Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, (2) Green Bay in Lake Michigan, (3) the islands near Sandusky, Ohio, in western Lake Erie, and (4) the area near Hamilton, Ontario, and Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario. Our study focused entirely on Ciscoes but may provide a framework for describing future stocking needs for deepwater ciscoes.
Public communication is increasingly recognized as a key component in successful natural resource management within government agencies responsible for conservation. However, communication practices and beliefs among government conservation scientists and practitioners are not well studied or understood. Herein, we present the results of a communication survey disseminated to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) employees working for the agency’s Ecological Services program, a program charged with endangered species recovery. We asked respondents about public communication practices and beliefs, and factors that may motivate or discourage participation in public communication activities. Study respondents reported the lowest levels of participation in media-related, one-way communication activities, including writing educational materials and answering media inquiries, and the engaging in one-on-one communication with stakeholders most frequently. While our results suggest respondents engage in frequent two-way communication with stakeholders, our results also suggest they mostly communicate with stakeholders remotely, and especially by email, rather than in-person. Furthermore, only 36% reported they go out of their way to visit people in communities. On the other hand, a majority agreed they learn new things about species and landscapes (80%) from conversations with stakeholders and often use this knowledge to solve conservation problems (89%). With respect to factors that encouraging and discouraging participation, 93% of respondents indicated a desire to produce better conservation outcomes motivates them to communicate with stakeholders and the public. Many agreed that a lack of time was an obstacle to participating in public communication (68%), but an even larger majority (86%) indicated public unfamiliarity with USFWS presented a barrier to public communication. Similarly, majority of employees also agreed public and stakeholder unfamiliarity with themselves and their work, also presented a communication barrier (62%). Our findings suggest agencies responsible for conservation may want to assess whether agency and its employees adequately invest in communication activities that foster public familiarity with the agency and its employees.
A previously published model of avian electrocution risk, “the 2014 model,” was developed by comparing power poles that electrocuted birds (electrocution poles; including 21 golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos electrocutions) to poles not known to have electrocuted birds (comparison poles). The 2014 model produces pole-specific risk index scores between 0 and 1. The scores rank relative risk so electric utilities can maximize conservation benefits per dollar spent by focusing retrofitting on poles with greatest risk. Although the 2014 model was created from a study population of birds and poles in southern California, the 2014 model has potential to be used in managing a target population of raptors including golden eagles throughout the western United States. Use beyond southern California is only appropriate if the study population is similar enough to the target population for the 2014 model to predict risk effectively. To evaluate similarity, we examined five sources of evidence. Two were the relative consistency in electrical safety codes for power poles and body sizes of golden eagles in the study and target populations. Three more were consistency in structure-specific factors associated with 1) golden eagle electrocutions in other studies, 2) other avian electrocutions, and 3) previously unreported golden eagle electrocutions. We found that although the study population in the 2014 model included relatively few golden eagles, data were sufficient to create a model that can be applied to a target population throughout the western United States. The model can also be useful in helping determine equivalencies between pole types if utilities seek to compare benefits of retrofitting small numbers of high-risk poles to large numbers of low-risk poles.
Brush piles (i.e., trees and large woody debris) are often installed in reservoirs to supplement fish habitat. The retention and dimensional change of brush piles after installation is important information that can be used to maximize the effectiveness of this management action. We evaluated the retention and dimensional change of 70 eastern red cedar Juniperus virginiana and bald cypress Taxodium distichum brush piles in an embayment of a drawdown reservoir up to four annual cycles of submergence and exposure. We used satellite imagery to supplement our onsite measurements of retention. We also examined spatial patterns of brush pile retention and dimensional change. Brush piles were lost at 10% per year and their volume at 14% per year. We compared our rates of brush pile retention and dimensional change with those from a holdout data set of 50 brush piles. Estimates between data sets did not differ statistically. Spatial patterns of retention and dimensional change coincided with morphological features in our study area, suggesting that retention and dimensional change is influenced by variable physical forces (e.g., wave action and flow) at installation locations. Our estimates of brush pile retention and dimensional change can be used to generally sustain desirable brush densities. For example, to maintain a fixed total volume of brush in our study embayment roughly 23% of the total brush volume installed would need to be replaced annually. Similar research in reservoirs managed for other purposes is needed as length and cycle of inundation could lead to variable rates of retention and dimensional change. Additionally, advancements into computer-assisted detection and volume estimation could reduce the time and effort needed to monitor brush piles.