Avian population and community dynamics in response to vegetation restoration on reclaimed mine lands in southwest Virginia
Latimer, Christopher Edward
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Coal surface-mining is often implicated for its negative impacts on native flora and fauna. However, some studies suggest that, in reclaiming land after mining, there may be potential to create early successional habitat needed by many avian species currently in decline throughout eastern North America. I evaluated nest-site selection and nest success for on reclaimed mine lands in southwest Virginia during the summers of 2010 and 2011. For this nest-site analysis, I focused on 2 bird species common to reclaimed mine lands in southwest Virginia: field sparrows (Spizella pusillia) and indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea). In addition, I assessed bird community attributes in relation to various surface-mine reclamation regimens over a 5-year period from 2007-2011. For both species, I found estimates of daily nest success to be higher than other estimates reported in the literature; however, empirical estimates of adult and juvenile survival are needed to provide better estimates of population status. For field sparrows, models of avian nest success support the hypothesis that a tradeoff exists between nest concealment and a view of the surroundings for field sparrows. For indigo buntings, year explained the most variation in nest success, with much lower estimates of daily nest survival in 2010, possibly as a result of increased precipitation. I also assessed avian community dynamics in relation to vegetation changes on reclaimed mine sites and observed a total of 96 species throughout the 4 years of sampling. Local species persistence and species turnover were comparable to another continental scale study conducted using breeding bird survey (BBS) data. Observed changes in community vital rates were likely a result of changes in certain habitat attributes over the 5-year period. Lastly, seven species were unique to certain cover types, suggesting the need to consider landscape level processes when developing restoration guidelines for reclaimed coal surface-mines.
- Masters Theses