|Effects of grazing and prescribed fire on resource selection and nest survival of upland sandpipers in an experimental landscape
|Year of Publication
|Sandercock, BK, Alfaro-Barrios, M, Casey, AE, Johnson, TN, Mong, TW, Odom, KJ, Strum, KM, Winder, VL
|Bartramia longicauda, fire, grassland, Habitat selection, Home range, Landscape heterogeneity, Nest survival, Radio-telemetry, Resource utilization functions, tallgrass prairie
Context Conservation of grassland vertebrates requires a mechanistic understanding of the effects of landscape heterogeneity on habitat selection and demographic performance. Objectives Our goal was to investigate the effects of rangeland management on resource selection and nest survival of upland sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda). Methods We conducted our project at Konza Prairie, a Long-Term Ecological Research site. The station has 60 experimental units with replicated grazing and fire treatments that create a heterogeneous landscape of different habitat patches. We radio-tracked sandpipers for two breeding seasons (2003–2004, n = 37 birds) and monitored sandpiper nests for eight seasons (2001–2008, n = 246 nests). We used resource utilization functions to examine resource selection with respect to five landscape features. Results Home ranges of sandpipers were large in contiguous prairie (x¯=8.4km2x¯=8.4km2) and explain area-sensitive occurrence in fragmented prairie. Upland sandpipers selected grazed and burned sites with short vegetation within their home range. In contrast, nest site selection was influenced by fire frequency and birds selected infrequently burned sites with greater vegetative structure. Settlement decisions affected fitness because nest survival was low in burned and grazed sites (0.068), but higher in unburned and ungrazed sites (0.201–0.247). Conclusions Our results raise concerns for conservation because private rangelands managed for livestock production are often homogeneous landscapes with heavy grazing and frequent fires. Rotational grazing and fire could be used to restore heterogeneity to grasslands but the duration of rotation, patch size, and optimal configuration require further investigation.