2004 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 , Center for Water and the Environment, Natural Resources Research Institute , Cornell University
Current 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, 2003 through January 9, 2004
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems


The specific objectives of this research project 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 QA/QC infrastructure for future assessments of bird and amphibian communities;
  6. and provide scientific recommendations for improving and monitoring the ecological health of the Great Lakes basin.

Progress Summary:

Our efforts in Year 4 of the project have centered on four major tasks. First, we collaborated with GIS personnel and completed the final QA/QC of all field data and sample locales and determined boundaries of sampling complexes and watersheds. Secondly, we quantified variation in bird community metrics and species data that could be attributed to geographic location of the sampling points (lake, ecoprovince, and wetland geomorphic type). Third, we developed stressor relationships between amphibian and bird community metrics and measures of disturbance at four different buffer distances from the wetland sample point. Finally, much effort was directed toward project outreach, including presentations at scientific meetings, graduate theses, and peer-reviewed articles.

Indicators and Stressors

Our analysis of indicators and their relationships to stressors has thus far concentrated 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 Laurentian Mixed Province (with 2002 data). In addition, land cover from four different buffer widths also were correlated with both amphibian and wetland bird metrics. Results thus far are preliminary but will help us focus on the most promising indicator metrics and potential stressors to which birds and amphibians will likely respond.

In the development of biotic indicators of Great Lakes coastal wetland condition using breeding bird community data, we examined how geographic distribution of birds and their potential affinities to wetlands of three geomorphic types would affect the scale at which we developed indicators for this large region. We completed 385 breeding bird surveys on 222 wetlands across the U.S. portion of the basin in 2002 and 2003. Analyses showed that wetlands within two ecoprovinces (Laurentian Mixed Forest and Eastern Broadleaf Forest) had different bird communities. Bird communities were also significantly different among the five lakes ( Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) and three wetland types (lacustrine, riverine, and barrier-protected). Indicator values illustrated species with high affinities for each group. Species with restricted geographic ranges, such as Alder and Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax alnorum and E. traillii) had significant affinities for ecoprovince. Ten bird species had significant affinities for lacustrine wetlands. Analyses on guild metrics showed that Lake Ontario had fewer long-distant migrants and warblers than the other lakes. Numbers of short-distant migrants and individuals were higher in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest ecoprovince. The number of flycatchers and wetland obligate birds were not different among provinces, lakes, or wetland type. Our results indicate that we need to develop separate indices for at least two geographic regions (the two ecoprovinces). In addition, we will need to consider local habitat characteristics and landscape composition in the next steps of indicator development.

Results from our correlation analyses with land cover data in buffers surrounding wetland sample points indicated that animal presence/absence in wetlands is associated with disturbance in the surrounding areas. In the example shown for Green Frog, we found that presence of this species in a wetland is dependent upon the amount of road surface within a 1,000 m buffer of the wetland. In addition, the response of this species to road density is different in the two ecoprovinces. In the Eastern Broadleaf Forest, the species was present when less than 5 percent of the surrounding landcover contained roads. The threshold value for Green Frog presence in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province was about 2 percent.

Future Activities:

We will begin statistical analyses of all data when we have the entire site “quality” information (relevant stressor data) from the GIS team. Results of our work will be presented at national meetings this coming summer and four theses will be completed based on this investigation. We also have begun work 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 Hanowski J, Danz N, Howe R, Niemi G, Regal R. Consideration of geography and wetland geomorphic type in the development of Great Lakes coastal wetland bird indicators. EcoHealth 2007;4(2):194-205. R828675 (Final)
R828675C004 (2004)
  • Abstract: Springer Link Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    environmental indicators, birds, amphibians, Great Lakes coastal zone, Great Lakes, coastal wetlands, disturbance, coastal, ecological indicators, stress, water, wetlands, monitoring, water quality, aquatic ecosystem,, 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
  • 2003 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