Identifying the forage base and critical forage taxa for Chesapeake waterbirds

Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
By: , and 



To effectively maximize the conservation value of management plans intended to capture ecosystem-wide health, it is essential to obtain an understanding of emergent patterns in dietary dynamics spanning many species. Chesapeake Bay, USA, is a critical ecosystem used annually by a diverse assortment of waterbird species, including several of conservation concern. However, the ecosystem is threatened by many ecological pressures driven largely by the dense human population of the surrounding region. These issues necessitate proactive monitoring and management efforts to track the health of ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay. Such monitoring efforts of population dynamics require adequate data on the connections between trophic levels to understand how changes to the forage base might influence higher trophic levels, such as these diverse avian predators. However, we have historically lacked standardized quantitative data drawing these connections at the community level, as well as the relative importance of these taxa in the diet of such predators. We collated existing quantitative data on avian dietary composition to construct a database on the diets of 58 waterbird species that make use of the Chesapeake Bay. From this database, we quantified the relative importance of forage taxa to the diet of each waterbird species. Such data can enable managers to develop a comprehensive suite of forage taxa indicators whose abundance and distributions can be monitored as a proxy for ecosystem health. It is our goal that this database be harnessed as a tool to enable conservation practitioners to prioritize indicator taxa for monitoring purposes, contributing towards conservation plans that best address the health of the ecosystem at large.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Identifying the forage base and critical forage taxa for Chesapeake waterbirds
Series title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
DOI 10.3996/jfwm-23-017
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Allen Press
Contributing office(s) Eastern Ecological Science Center
Country United States
State Delaware, Maryland, Virginia
Other Geospatial Chesapeake Bay
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