Water levels, rapid vegetational changes, and the endangered Cape Sable seaside-sparrow


All correspondence to: S. L. Pimm. Tel: 423-974-1981; Fax: 423-974-0978; E-mail: stuartpimm@aol.com


The legally endangered Cape Sable seaside-sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) is restricted to short-hydroperiod, marl prairies within Florida's Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Marl prairies are typified by dense, mixed stands of graminoid species usually below 1 m in height, naturally inundated by freshwater for 3–7 months annually. Water levels affect the birds directly, by flooding their nests, and indirectly by altering the habitat on which they depend. Managed redistribution of water flows flooded nearly half of the sparrow's geographical range during several consecutive breeding seasons starting in 1993. Furthermore, these high water levels rapidly changed plant communities, so jeopardizing the sparrow's survival by reducing the availability of nesting habitat.