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Kingston, RI, United States

Masse R.J.,University of Rhode Island | Tefft B.C.,77 Great Neck Road | Amador J.A.,University of Rhode Island | McWilliams S.R.,University of Rhode Island
Behavioral Ecology | Year: 2013

Moving between sites is a common behavior employed by prey in order to balance trade-offs associated with acquiring resources and avoiding predators. At dusk during summer, American woodcock frequently fly from diurnal coverts in forests to nocturnal roost fields. We tested 2 hypotheses, the foraging-benefit hypothesis and predation-risk hypothesis, to determine the benefit gained by woodcock that commute. We used telemetry to identify the diurnal coverts and nocturnal roost fields used by woodcock in Rhode Island, USA, during 2 summers. At each site, we measured the availability and diversity of woodcock prey, soil properties, and mammalian predator activity. Earthworms were 3-4 times more abundant at diurnal coverts than nocturnal roost fields. The richness and diversity of woodcock foods was greater at diurnal coverts during 2011 but similar between sites during 2012. Soil moisture content was about 1.5 times greater at diurnal coverts, whereas other soil properties were similar between sites. At night, mammalian predators visited diurnal coverts more frequently than nocturnal roost fields for 73% of the woodcock we monitored during 2011. During 2012, the number of days until initial predator visit was 1.8 times greater at nocturnal roost fields. Our results provide the first empirical support for the predation-risk hypothesis. During summer, woodcock fly from diurnal coverts to nocturnal roost fields to avoid predators and not to feed. © The Author 2013. Source


Loring P.H.,University of Rhode Island | Loring P.H.,University of Massachusetts Amherst | Paton P.W.C.,University of Rhode Island | Osenkowski J.E.,77 Great Neck Road | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2014

The southern New England continental shelf is an important region for black scoters (Melanitta americana) during winter and migratory staging periods and a priority area for developing offshore wind energy facilities. However, little is known about the migration phenology and habitat use of black scoters in this portion of their range and this information is necessary to assess potential risks to black scoters during the marine spatial planning process. In this regional black scoter study over 2 winters, we used satellite telemetry and spatial modeling techniques to estimate migratory timing and length of stay, quantify winter home range size and site fidelity between winters, examine key habitat characteristics associated with core-use areas, and map relative probabilities of use across a 3,800-km2 marine spatial planning area for 2 proposed offshore renewable energy facilities. Black scoters spent nearly 5 months in southern New England, with wide variation among individuals in the size of winter utilization distributions (range 16-12,367 km2). Approximately 50% of the tagged birds returned to southern New England during the subsequent winter and had variable fidelity to core-use areas occupied the previous winter. During both winters, black scoter core-use areas were located closer to shore, at shallower water depths, with coarser sediment grain size and higher probability of hard-bottom occurrence relative to available areas. Resource selection functions classified the majority of a nearshore 5-turbine, 34-km2 renewable energy zone off Block Island as high probability of use by black scoters, whereas an offshore 200-turbine, 667-km2 federal lease block zone was classified as low to medium-low probability of selection. Wind energy facilities, such as the Block Island site, constructed in relatively shallow (<20 m deep), nearshore habitats (<5 km) over hard-bottomed or coarse-sand substrate could displace some foraging black scoters wintering in this region, whereas the larger federal lease block zone located farther offshore is more likely to affect scoters dispersing among core-use areas and during migration between wintering and breeding grounds. © 2014 The Wildlife Society. Source


Raithel C.J.,77 Great Neck Road | Paton P.W.C.,University of Rhode Island | Pooler P.S.,National Park Service | Golet F.C.,University of Rhode Island
Journal of Herpetology | Year: 2011

In North America, most efforts to monitor pond-breeding anurans have focused on call surveys. Egg-mass counts offer an alternative monitoring strategy that has been used extensively in Europe because this technique can produce precise and accurate estimates of annual reproductive effort at many study sites. We surveyed egg masses of Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) at 18 ponds for up to 16 years from 1993-2008 in the largest contiguous forest tract in southern New England. We detected an average of 441.5 ± 343.7 egg masses per pond. Based on annual egg-mass counts, coefficients of variation (CV) were slightly higher than previous estimates for this species. We detected no relationship between mean annual population size and CV or between length of time series and CV. Population fluctuations in these ponds exhibited evidence of annual synchrony, in part because annual fluctuations at individual ponds were large enough that it was difficult to assess differences in population trends among ponds. However, the overall trend suggests this population was probably increasing slightly, which was expected because ponds were located in contiguous forest that remained intact during the study. Egg-mass counts appear to represent a feasible technique to monitor Wood Frog populations, given that all local breeding ponds are monitored. © 2011 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Source


Blomberg E.J.,University of Rhode Island | Blomberg E.J.,University of Nevada, Reno | Tefft B.C.,77 Great Neck Road | Reed J.M.,Tufts University | McWilliams S.R.,University of Rhode Island
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2012

Species associated with early successional habitats have experienced dramatic declines in the eastern United States as a result of land use changes and human disruption of natural disturbance regimes. Consequently, active management is required to create early successional habitat and promote plant and animal communities that depend on periodic forest disturbance. Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) depend on recently disturbed forest habitat, and have experienced dramatic declines over the last half-century. Although ruffed grouse are extensively studied, little effort has been made to link population dynamics with habitat management at landscape scales. We used stochastic, spatially explicit population models that combined landscape conditions derived from a Geographic Information System with demographic data, and applied the model to a declining ruffed grouse population in Rhode Island, USA. We identified vital rates that influence ruffed grouse population dynamics using baseline models constructed with current demographic rates and landscape conditions, and assessed the effect of landscape-scale forest management alternatives on population persistence by running multiple management simulations. Baseline models typically predicted population decline, and we concluded that vital rates (survival and recruitment) had a greater influence on population persistence than did dispersal capability, carrying capacity, or initial population size. Management simulations predicted greater population persistence under a scenario where high-quality habitat was provided in fewer large blocks as opposed to many small blocks, and the rate at which we allowed ruffed grouse to colonize newly created habitat had a substantial impact on management success. Populations of ruffed grouse in the eastern United States are likely to continue to decline given current disturbance regimes, and our work provides a link between ruffed grouse demography and landscape-scale habitat conditions to support management decisions. Copyright © 2011 The Wildlife Society. Source


Masse R.J.,University of Rhode Island | Tefft B.C.,77 Great Neck Road | McWilliams S.R.,University of Rhode Island
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2014

Declines of young forest and associated populations of wildlife are major conservation concerns in the Northeast, USA. Active forest management is required to conserve declining populations of young forest wildlife and investigating habitat selection by target species can help inform management decision-making. The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a key indicator species of young forest whose populations have declined significantly since 1968. We investigated multiscale habitat selection by woodcock in Rhode Island, USA in order to characterize daytime habitat, and to predict state-wide relative probability of use by woodcock of forested land. We used radio-telemetry to monitor the daytime locations of woodcock at three state wildlife management areas from 23 May-25 August 2011 and 2012. Compared to random sites, woodcock selected younger forest where the biomass of preferred food (i.e., earthworms [Haplotaxida]) was 46-67% greater and the density of shrub and sapling stems was about two times greater. Most woodcock home ranges were <50. ha and usually comprised wetland forests and deciduous or mixed upland forests on flatter slopes that were closer to streams, agricultural openings, upland young forests, and moist soils. Using resource selection functions, we found that the majority of forested land in Rhode Island was in the low-moderate classes of relative use, but 92% of older second-growth upland forest in the state is located where woodcock habitat management would be beneficial for increasing relative use. We illustrate how land managers can use resource selection functions to compare expected responses of woodcock to alternative forest management scenarios and so maximize conservation benefits. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

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