Grasshopper sparrow reproductive success and habitat use on reclaimed surface mines varies by age of reclamation

Wildlife Society Bulletin
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Abstract

We studied 3 mountaintop mining–valley fill (MTMVF) complexes in southern West Virginia, USA to examine grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum pratensis) demographic response to different age classes of mine land reclamation. For 71 nests monitored during the 2001–2002 breeding seasons, overall nest success (36%) was within the range of nest success rates previously reported for this species, but it was highest on more recently reclaimed sites (56%). Nest density and clutch size did not differ (P > 0.30) among reclamation age classes, whereas number of fledglings was greater (P = 0.01) on more recently reclaimed sites. We measured vegetation variables at 70 nest subplots and at 96 systematic subplots to compare nest vegetation with vegetation available on the plots. We found that nests occurred in areas with more bare ground near the nest, greater vegetation height–density surrounding the nest site, lower grass height, and fewer woody stems, similar to previous studies. As postreclamation age increased, vegetation height–density and maximum grass height increased, and sericea (Lespedeza cuneata) became more dominant. Nest success declined with increasing vegetation height–density at the nest. The grasslands available on these reclaimed mine complexes are of sufficient quality to support breeding populations of grasshopper sparrows, but nest success decreased on the older reclaimed areas. Without active management, grasslands on reclaimed MTMVF mines become less suitable for nesting grasshopper sparrows about 10 years after reclamation.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Grasshopper sparrow reproductive success and habitat use on reclaimed surface mines varies by age of reclamation
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
DOI 10.1002/wsb.563
Volume 39
Issue 3
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 9 p.
First page 512
Last page 520
Country United STates
State West Virginia
County Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N