Relative use of delta landscapes by valued bird populations
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Bird communities are supported by the restoration of natural delta landscapes, which provide a range of self-sustaining wetland habitats that support a high diversity of migratory birds.
Winter ponding behind dikes has created a refuge for winter dabbling ducks which are of interest to hunting and bird watching communities. It is likely that the wide range of habitats present in deltas represents a valuable resource for migratory waterfowl. However restoration actions primarily produce tidal flats and marsh landscapes, and may result in fewer winter freshwater impoundments. This change in wetland composition has been seen as a threat to stakeholder groups invested in dabbling ducks, and uncertainty about how this change will affect forage and refuge among a range of bird species has undermined support for restoration to tidal hydrology. The degredation of palustrine freshwater wetlands may contribute to demand for use of the estuarine landscape for the creation and maintenance of palustrine wetlands.
Production of wild goose forage using agricultural grains is a common practice in the Skagit delta on subsided delta lands that are too wet to easily farm, and restoration may exclude these practices. The relative composition and density of bird populations among and across delta landscapes has been poorly described.
Delta Strategy Analysis
The uncertainties in how this topic affects delta restoration has resulted in its inclusion in the ESRP River Delta Adaptive Management Strategy. This three criteria analysis should build off the analysis above, and supports development of learning projects.
Extensive new quantitative data collection may not be necessary to resolve issues related to delta habitat modification and bird use.
A significant body of data already exist at some sites, but have not been presented in a way that resolves questions about bird carrying capacity.
Extensive work and planning has been undertaken to preserve dabbling duck and goose habitat during delta restoration. It is unclear if a more quantitative analysis will actually support decision making.