2003 Progress Report: Development and Assessment of Environmental Indicators Based on Birds and Amphibians in the Great Lakes Basin

EPA Grant Number: R828675C004
Subproject: this is subproject number 004 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R828675
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project
Center Director: Niemi, Gerald J.
Title: Development and Assessment of Environmental Indicators Based on Birds and Amphibians in the Great Lakes Basin
Investigators: Howe, Robert W. , Hanowski, JoAnn M. , Smith, Charles
Current Investigators: Howe, Robert W. , Hanowski, JoAnn M. , Niemi, Gerald J. , Smith, Charles
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Green Bay , Cornell University , University of Minnesota
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 10, 2001 through January 9, 2005 (Extended to January 9, 2006)
Project Period Covered by this Report: January 10, 2002 through January 9, 2003
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems


The objectives of this subproject are to: (1) develop a suite of scientifically robust, cost-effective indices of bird and amphibian assemblages that reflect the ecological condition of the Great Lakes; (2) quantify the extent to which these indices are related to environmental pressure indicators such as land use characteristics, water quality, presence of exotic species, and hydrological modifications; (3) derive predictive models based on the statistical relationship between pressure indicators and indices of bird/amphibian diversity and abundance; (4) use these models to infer ecological conditions at local and regional scales and to establish or improve the baseline for environmental monitoring programs; (5) develop a quality assurance/quality control infrastructure for future assessments of bird and amphibian communities; and (6) provide scientific recommendations for improving and monitoring the ecological health of the Great Lakes Basin.

Progress Summary:

Our efforts in the past year have centered on three major tasks. First, we completed field sampling of wetlands for breeding birds (224 wetlands) and calling anurans (220 wetlands) and for breeding birds on upland sites (171 study areas within 1 km of shoreline). We also quantified annual variation in bird abundance by resampling about 16 percent of sites in 2003 that were sampled initially in 2002. We have completed preliminary analyses to identify possible biological indicators by examining the relationship of anuran and bird metrics to the stress gradients defined in the site selection process (seven principal components). Finally, much effort was directed toward project outreach, including presentations at scientific meetings, graduate theses, and peer-reviewed articles.

Field Sampling

Wetland breeding bird communities were surveyed on 130 wetlands (186 points) in the Laurentian Mixed Province (LMP) and 94 wetlands (152 points) in the Eastern Broadleaf Province (EBP) (see Figure 1). To quantify annual variability in our samples, we resampled (surveys completed in 2002 and 2003) 16 percent of the wetlands in the LMP and 17 percent of the wetlands in the EBP for wetland birds. A total of 144 bird species were observed over all wetland bird surveys in the LMP, and 117 species were documented in the EBP. A total of 154 bird species were observed across all surveys.

Three surveys were completed for calling anurans on 125 wetlands (178 points) in the LMP and 95 wetlands (151 points) in the EBP (see Figure 1). To quantify annual variability, we resampled 16 percent of the wetlands in the LMP and 5 percent in the EBP (see Figure 1). A total of 13 species were heard across the Great Lakes Basin, and 11 species in each of the EBP and LMP.

survey graph

We recorded 174 bird species on 1,413 surveys (within 95 segments of upland) in the LMP and 154 species on 1,137 surveys (within 76 segments) in the EBP (see Figure 1). Repeat surveys (2002 and 2003) were completed on 14 percent of the segments in the LMP and 16 percent of the segments in the EBP.

Indicators and Stressors

Our analysis of indicators and their relationships to stressors has concentrated thus far on stressor gradients defined in the original site selection. For example, we have completed simple correlations of bird and anuran indicators with the principal component axes from the seven principal components for the LMP (with 2002 data). Results thus far are preliminary, but will help us focus on the most promising indicator metrics and potential stressors to which birds and amphibians likely will respond. Thus far, we have found that although birds are more mobile than frogs, the responses of these animals to habitat conditions are different. Birds found in wetlands were highly associated with local habitat conditions, while frogs were associated more often with larger scale landscape variables. Both groups are useful, therefore, as indicators of ecological stress, because they provide information from different geographic scales.

Future Activities:

In the future, we will begin statistical analyses of all data when we have the entire site “quality” information (relevant stressor data) from the geographic information system team. Results of our work will be presented at national meetings this coming summer and four theses will be completed based on this investigation. Work has also begun on peer-reviewed publications from this project, as well as from the overall Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 23 publications 4 publications in selected types All 3 journal articles
Other center views: All 268 publications 54 publications in selected types All 45 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Price SJ, Marks DR, Howe RW, Hanowski J, Niemi GJ. The importance of spatial scale for conservation and assessment of anuran populations in coastal wetlands of the western Great Lakes. Landscape Ecology 2005;20(4):441-454. R828675 (Final)
R828675C004 (2003)
R828675C004 (Final)
not available

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental indicators, birds, amphibians, Great Lakes coastal zone, Great Lakes, GLEI, EaGLes, coastal wetlands,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Geographic Area, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, exploratory research environmental biology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Great Lakes, Ecological Indicators, Risk Assessment, ecological condition, coastal ecosystem, anthropogenic stress, amphian population model, biodiversity, ecosystem assessment, environmental measurement, coastal environments, ecological assessment, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, birds, environmental stress, water quality, ecological models, ecological response

Relevant Websites:

http://glei.nrri.umn.edu Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R828675    EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828675C001 Great Lakes Diatom and Water Quality Indicators
    R828675C002 Vegetative Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands
    R828675C003 Testing Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Integrity Using Fish and Macroinvertebrates
    R828675C004 Development and Assessment of Environmental Indicators Based on Birds and Amphibians in the Great Lakes Basin
    R828675C005 Development and Evaluation of Chemical Indicators for Monitoring Ecological Risk