Lakeshore development affects birds

ANN ARBOR---Lakeshore housing development affects breeding bird communities in subtle ways that conventional methods of assessing impact may miss, a study by researchers at the University of Michigan and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests. But property owners can take steps to lessen the effects, the scientists say.

Their work appears in the September issue of Biological Conservation, currently available online.

The researchers surveyed breeding birds over a two-year period in an area of northern Wisconsin where lakeshore housing development has boomed in recent years. "The idea was to compare bird communities between pairs of lakes, with one member of each pair being developed and the other undeveloped," says Alec Lindsay, a U-M doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology who collaborated on the work with Sandra Gillum and Michael W. Meyer of the Wisconsin DNR. The paired lakes were similar to each other in most other respects, such as size, amount of shoreline, water chemistry and water source.

The researchers canoed to the middle of each lake and picked a shore landing site by using a randomly determined compass bearing. From that landing point, they identified five more landing sites at 60-degree intervals around the lake. At each landing site, they hiked 50 meters inland (except where floating bogs, swamps or other obstacles made that impossible) and counted all the birds they saw or heard in a 10-minute period. They also classified each survey site into habitat categories such as open upland, upland forest, forested lowland, upland rural residential or upland rural commercial.

When it came time to analyze the data from their surveys of 16 developed and 16 undeveloped lakes, Lindsay and colleagues assessed differences in bird communities in a unique way. Instead of simply classifying the birds they saw and heard by species, they also categorized them by "guilds" or ecological groups. In this s

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
University of Michigan

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