Snowy plover nest survival in Kansas and effective management to counter negative effects of precipitation

Authors

  • Matthew G. Sexson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University, 600 Park Street, Hays, KS 67601, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA.
    • Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University, 600 Park Street, Hays, KS 67601, USA
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  • Greg H. Farley

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University, 600 Park Street, Hays, KS 67601, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Daniel Twedt

Abstract

Snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) are a species of conservation concern throughout North America and listed as a threatened species in Kansas. Management to minimize the effects of flooding and predation were implemented at Kansas breeding sites in the 1980s to encourage reproductive success. However, the effectiveness of those strategies and the effect of other variables that may influence nest survival have not been formally assessed. We used Program MARK to model the daily survival rate (DSR) of 317 snowy plover nests with 14 habitat- and management-related covariates to identify factors that influence nest survival and examine the efficacy of current management practices. In 2005 and 2006, we monitored nests and collected habitat data at the 2 known breeding sites in Kansas, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area (WA). Overall DSR was greater at Quivira NWR in 2006 (0.954) than at Cheyenne Bottoms WA (0.917) and Quivira NWR (0.942) in 2005. We developed 88 candidate models of which 4 competing models (ΔAICc < 2) were identified. We selected the most parsimonious model (K = 14, wi = 0.23) as the remaining 3 included covariates deemed biologically uninformative. This model included the effect of study site and year on a quadratic time trend, and included covariates quantifying nest age; precipitation; the proportion of gravel, rock, and vegetation at nests; occurrence within an electric fence and within 20 m of a road; occurrence on a human-constructed nest mound; and adult capture during incubation. We found a strong positive relationship between the use of nest mounds and DSR, and a strong negative relationship between precipitation and DSR. We also found a strong positive relationship between DSR and the proportion of vegetation at nest sites, the occurrence of a nest within an electric fence, and adult capture at a nest. We noted a strong negative relationship between DSR and occurrence within 20 m of a road. However, we found that DSR was not sensitive to the proportion of vegetation at a nest, occurrence within an electric fence or within 20 m of a road, and to adult capture at a nest in light of covariates quantifying precipitation and the use of nest mounds. We found weak support for a positive relationship between DSR, nest age, and the proportion of gravel and rock at nests. Our results indicate that large rainfall events are a major source of snowy plover nest loss in Kansas that can be mitigated by the construction of nest mounds. Limited influence of environmental variables found to influence nest survival at other breeding sites suggests that threats to snowy plover nest survival are site specific and managers should assess local sources of nest loss prior to implementing management strategies to improve reproductive success. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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