EPA Science Inventory

Report on changes in numbers of Seaside Sparrows on RI salt marshes since 1982, and how those changes relate to changes in the marsh and changes in surrounding land use

Citation:

Berry, W., M. Nightingale, S. Reinert, AND S. Lussier. Report on changes in numbers of Seaside Sparrows on RI salt marshes since 1982, and how those changes relate to changes in the marsh and changes in surrounding land use.

Description:

To assess the population status of breeding Seaside Sparrows (Ammodramus maritimus) in Rhode Island, we repeated a 1982 survey conducted by Stoll and Golet (1983). In June and July 2007 and 2008, 19 marshes were surveyed in their entirety for the presence of breeding Seaside Sparrows. Seaside Sparrow counts decreased 40% on average between 1982 and the recent surveys. Counts decreased at 10 of the 11 marshes where Seaside Sparrows had been found in 1982. We used current and historic landuse data to quantify the change in development within a 150 m and a 1 km buffer of each marsh and the loss of salt marsh habitat at each salt marsh site. From 1981 to 2008 there was an average increase in structures of 36% in the 150 m buffer and of 67% in the 1km buffer, and salt marsh area decreased an average of 8.8%. Although we cannot statistically correlate these variables with the decline in sparrows, it is of anecdotal interest that the single marsh site that had increased sparrow populations over the years did not have any new development in the 150 m surrounding buffer. The Seaside Sparrow’s conservation classification in RI is currently “Concern”. This classification may need to be reconsidered, given the marked drop in the number of Seasides Sparrows which we found on RI salt marshes.

Purpose/Objective:

The population status of breeding Seaside Sparrows (Ammodramus maritimus) in Rhode Island is in doubt, because the breeding habitat of these birds is being eroded from both the seaward and landward sides. Our work will help to inform several conservation efforts underway in RI. The USFWS is currently carrying out studies of Seaside Sparrows and other salt marsh-obligate breeders on their refuges in RI. The information in this report will help them to formulate management plans for their marsh reserves. Save The Bay is doing assessments of a number of marshes in RI, to develop a baseline that can be used to measure the effects of global climate change. The data in this report will help them to develop a Seaside Sparrow baseline, and to highlight the recent decreases in the Seaside Sparrows on RI marshes. Finally, the Seaside Sparrow’s conservation classification in RI is currently “Concern”. This classification may need to be reconsidered, given the marked drop in the number of Seasides Sparrows which we found on RI salt marshes from 1982 to 2007.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (UNPUBLISHED REPORT)
Record Last Revised: 09/26/2012
Record Created: 09/26/2012
Record Released: 09/26/2012
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 246531

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION

HABITATS EFFECT BRANCH