In response to the loss and degradation of oak savannas, associated wildlife populations have experienced long-term declines. For example, 70% of disturbance-dependent bird species in the United States have experienced declines with most of these species being associated with grasslands, oak savannas, and open forest communities. Few studies have documented the success of restoration in post oak savanna systems in regard to breeding bird assemblages. Our objective was to quantify avian abundance, density, species richness, and assemblage structure in restored post oak savannas at Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area (GEWMA) in Eastern Texas. We conducted vegetation and avian transect surveys post-restoration (2016-2017) and compared our results to pre-restoration baseline surveys conducted in 2009. Restoration conducted in 2010 was partially successful, with vegetation changes that closely resemble historical characteristics. The avian assemblage also showed indications of successful restoration, with the appearance of obligate grassland species following restoration efforts. Specifically, pre-restoration, one dickcissel ( Spiza americana ) and no lark sparrows ( Chondestes grammacus ) were detected. By 2017, dickcissel density in the restored sites was similar to densities recorded on tallgrass prairie and other high-quality habitat in the southern portion of its range. Lark sparrows were also detected, but at low densities. We also observed the persistence and/or increase of several woodland and open woodland species over time. These patterns are likely attributed to the creation of a mosaic of suitable microhabitats preferred by these species such as the persistence of mottes as well as their increased edge-to-area ratios. Restoration sites that are larger in size and in closer proximity to other restored or remnant savannas should have a higher priority to increase their likelihood of recolonization by target species. Restoration efforts may still be successful in more isolated areas, such as GEWMA, but post-restoration monitoring should be conducted and reported to provide insights regarding site-specific restoration dynamics.
Avian Responses to Post Oak Savanna Restoration in Eastern Texas
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Courtney McInnerney, Brian Oswald, Chris Comer, Roger J. Masse, Christopher M. Schalk; Avian Responses to Post Oak Savanna Restoration in Eastern Texas. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.3996/JFWM-20-028
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