ABSTRACT

Playa wetlands are important for maintaining biodiversity in otherwise nondiverse landscapes in the High Plains of the western Great Plains. Vegetation buffers around playas have been documented to reduce runoff of sediments and contaminants; however, there have been few assessments of the effects of buffers on bird communities. I conducted point counts during the breeding season and sampled vegetation at playa buffer sites and control playas to assess effects of buffers on breeding birds and their habitat. Relative abundance of wetland-dependent birds and total birds was substantially greater at buffered playas than unbuffered playas. I was not able to detect a difference in upland bird relative abundance between treatments. This was likely due to the habitat requirements of the most frequently detected upland birds: Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) and Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). Buffered playas contained more visual obstruction and percent forb cover than control playas, but I was unable to detect a difference in percent grass or bare ground. Overall, playa buffers supported more birds and provided better habitat conditions for many bird species than unbuffered sites, and I suggest further research examining survival and reproductive output of birds using playa buffers.

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