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Tuesday, January 30 • 2:00pm - 2:20pm
SYMPOSIA-08: Michigan Black Tern Conservation Initiative: Collaborative Conservation of Coastal Wetlands

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AUTHORS. Caleb G. Putnam, Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Stephanie Beilke, Audubon Great Lakes

ABSTRACT. Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) are Holarctic, semicolonial marshbirds found in a mix of open water and emergent vegetation wetlands, generally characterized by a 50/50 ratio of water to vegetation, and have suffered significant, range-wide population declines since the 1960s. This species nests in Great Lakes coastal marshes, wetlands that face a loss of diversity and community structure due to the introduction of invasive plants including reed (Phragmites australis australis), narrow-leaved cat-tail (Typha angustifolia), and hybrid cat-tail (Typha x glauca), successional processes, changes in water levels, and degradation of water quality, all of which have the potential to render a wetland unsuitable for nesting Black Terns. Audubon Great Lakes initiated productivity monitoring of Black Terns at St. Clair Flats in 2013 and secured funding for monitoring and habitat restoration at two additional sites in 2016 and 2017. This work led directly to the formation of the Michigan Black Tern Conservation Initiative, a coalition of partners working to address the statewide decline of this iconic indicator species. Few best management practices exist for Black Terns, in part because of an inability to clearly tie occupancy and productivity to key habitat elements and spatial scales. Modeling of landscape scale characteristics responsible for colony occupancy is ongoing, but has not yet translated into recommendations for landmanagers. Identification of key limiting factors to productivity at important colonies, estimation of limiting demographic parameters of Michigan Black Terns, development of a higher precision population index, use of transponders to clarify important stopover locations and winter areas, and testing the use of artificial platforms and cattail management to increasing productivity, are targets of the initiative. Successful collaboration and multi-pronged, long-term study are prerequisite to reversing population losses of Black Terns in the Great Lakes and beyond.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 2:00pm - 2:20pm CST