Monitoring Wetland Integrity and Restoration Success with Avifauna in the Prairie Pothole Region of Alberta, Canada
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In response to high wetland losses, and in recognition of the ecological functions and services provided by wetland ecosystems, updated wetland policy in Alberta focuses on protecting these important system and mitigating losses. A means to evaluate ecological health at wetlands in Alberta is needed to aid wetland protection in the province. With mitigation directed under the Alberta wetland policy, an evaluation of restoration progress is necessary to provide further guidance for wetland mitigation. An index of biological integrity (IBI) is a commonly used multi-metric bioassessment tool that uses biological indicators to predict ecosystem integrity or health. I developed IBIs for the Grassland and Parkland regions of Alberta from metrics derived from the avian community. I additionally created an IBI for both regions, to determine if regionally specific IBIs were more appropriate. I evaluated the responsiveness of avian metrics to a disturbance index I created. I successfully created IBIs for each region. I found that separate IBIs were superior to a joint IBI due to regional differences in the reference condition between the Parkland and Grassland. However, I could not validate the Grassland IBI with an independent dataset, most likely due to inaccuracies in remotely sensed land cover data and a small sample size for validation. To capture the current state of restored wetlands in the Parkland region, I compared the waterbird community composition in restored marshes to natural marshes that ranged a gradient in anthropogenic disturbance in the Parkland region of Alberta. I found that the avian community composition differed significantly between natural and restored wetlands. Restored wetlands had a unique assemblage of avian species. Using ordinations, I found strong support for an association of the waterbird community with both local- and landscape-level habitat variables. My work will help guide restoration practices and highlights the potential risks posed by adoption of wetland mitigation banking programs.
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Daina Anderson (2017). Monitoring Wetland Integrity and Restoration Success with Avifauna in the Prairie Pothole Region of Alberta, Canada. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11208