Geography & Environment Publications

Developing Habitat Models for Waterbirds in Urban Wetlands: A Log-linear Approach

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Urban Ecosystems

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Up to 95% of wetlands in southwestern Ontario, Canada, have been drained and converted to other land uses since the mid-1800s. Remaining wetlands now exist within a mosaic of urban and agriculture land cover and may resemble “islands” from the point of view of species that need this habitat. We investigated the relationships between waterbirds and wetland size, isolation, and adjacent forest cover and roads in 19 wetlands within and adjacent to London, Ontario. Waterbirds were grouped into resource-based guilds: Dabblers, Divers, Waders, and Gulls and Terns (because of small samples, the Passerine and Raptor guilds were dropped from the statistical analyses). Because of the high degree of multicollinearity between variables, we used log-linear analysis to develop models that explained variations in species richness in the waterbird guilds. The log-linear technique provided quantification of environmental effects in a richer way than previous research as the interplay between biophysical factors found in reality are partially captured by the inclusion of interaction in the habitat models. All of the models incorporated the biophysical variables of wetland size and adjacent wetland area, forest cover, and roads. Waterbirds in these urban and near-urban landscapes appear to be using all wetlands available to them, no matter how small or how disjunct the wetland. This has implications for wetland evaluations that may not rate wetlands in human-dominated landscapes highly enough to be protected from development.