Open Marsh Water Management (OMWM) as an alternative to pesticides for mosquito control in saltmarshes along the Atlantic Coast has created debate among biologists. We designed an experiment to determine waterbird (American black duck (Anas rubripes) and other waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, gulls, and terns) use (during daylight) of ponds created for mosquito control compared with use of pre-existing water bodies (i.e., natural tidal ponds, creeks, old ditches) and refuge impoundments. We also evaluated the influence of pond size and depth on waterbird use of wetlands. We documented bird use of different habitats for 1 year. The highest densities of waterfowl, in autumn, occurred in 0.030.06ha ponds (P lt 0.05) versus ponds either lt 0.02 ha or gt 0.08 ha; highest shorebird densities occurred in summer in ponds gt 0.10 ha (P lt 0.05). Pond depth affected shorebird and other waterfowl use in some seasons. Comparisons of mean number of birds using created (OMWM) ponds with mean number of birds using other water bodies revealed that most species showed no pattern (P gt 0.05) of disproportionate use versus availability. At high tidal levels, most species groups used OMWM ponds in the marsh more often (P lt 0.05) than other water bodies. Black ducks and other waterfowl used nearby refuge impoundments in higher densities than they did OMWM ponds, for nesting and during autumn-winter (all Ps lt 0.05). Creating small ( lt 0.1 ha) ponds for mosquito control does not enhance waterbird habitat, at least not where large impoundments are in close proximity. We recommend that in areas where OMWM practices seem appropriate, fewer large ( gt 0.10 ha) ponds be constructed with shallow ( lt 15 cm) basins and sloping sides.
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Waterbird use of saltmarsh ponds created for open marsh water management