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Can Nationally Standardized Wetland Breeding Bird and Amphibian Monitoring Data Be Used to Assess the Condition of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands

JoAnn Hanowski 1, Robert Howe 2, Charles Smith 3, and Gerald Niemi 1

1 Natural Resources Research Institute, Duluth, Minnesota
2 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin
3 Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

We used standardized North American marsh bird and amphibian monitoring standards to survey breeding birds and amphibians in over 200 coastal wetlands across the Great Lakes. Our objective was to develop a suite of indicators from these data that could be used to document and assess the condition of coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes. Wetlands were sampled along a pre-determined disturbance gradient that was defined by physical, chemical and biological stressor data from the study area.

We defined the relative condition of coastal wetlands by developing indicators at a variety of spatial scales that were based on either hydrologic models or local land-use surrounding the wetlands at several scales. We found that although birds are more mobile than frogs, individual species presence in wetlands were highly associated with local habitat conditions. Frogs, which are less mobile, were more often associated with larger-scale landscape variables. Both groups are therefore useful as indicators of ecological stress because they provide information from different geographic scales. We conclude that the condition of coastal wetlands can be ascertained and annual change can be monitored with national monitoring standards.

Keywords: breeding birds, amphibians, coastal wetlands, Great Lakes, monitoring, condition

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