Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

Westborough, MA, United States

Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

Westborough, MA, United States
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Maxted A.M.,University of Georgia | Maxted A.M.,New York State Department of Health | Porter R.R.,800 Quinard Court | Luttrell M.P.,University of Georgia | And 5 more authors.
Avian Diseases | Year: 2012

The population of ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres morinella) that migrates through Delaware Bay has undergone severe declines in recent years, attributable to reduced availability of horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) eggs at this critical spring migration stopover site. Concurrently, this population has experienced annual low pathogenicity avian influenza virus (AIV) epidemics at this same site. Using a prospective cohort study design with birds individually flagged during MayJune 20062008, we evaluated resighting rates (a proxy for annual survival) between AIV-infected and uninfected birds at 1 yr after capture, testing, and measurement. Overall resighting rate was 46, which varied by year and increased with relative mass of the bird when captured. Resighting rates were not different between AIV-infected and uninfected birds in any period. In multivariate analyses, infection status was also unrelated to resighting rate after controlling for year, day, state, sex, body size, mass index, or whether the bird was blood-sampled. Thus, apparent annual survival in ruddy turnstones was not reduced by AIV infection at this migratory stopover. However, it is unknown whether intestinal AIV infection might cause subtle reductions in weight gain which could negatively influence reproduction. © American Association of Avian Pathologists.

Maxted A.M.,University of Georgia | Maxted A.M.,New York State Department of Health | Sitters H.P.,Limosa | Luttrell M.P.,University of Georgia | And 4 more authors.
Avian Diseases | Year: 2016

Although low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses (LPAIV) are detected in shorebirds at Delaware Bay annually, little is known about affected species habitat preferences or the movement patterns that might influence virus transmission and spread. During the 5-wk spring migration stopover period during 2007-2008, we conducted a radiotelemetry study of ofteninfected ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres morinella; n 5 60) and rarely infected sanderlings (Calidris alba; n 5 20) to identify locations and habitats important to these species (during daytime and nighttime), determine the extent of overlap with other AIV reservoir species or poultry production areas, reveal possible movements of AIV around the Bay, and assess whether long-distance movement of AIV is likely after shorebird departure. Ruddy turnstones and sanderlings both fed on Bay beaches during the daytime. However, sanderlings used remote sandy points and islands during the nighttime while ruddy turnstones primarily used salt marsh harboring waterfowl and gull breeding colonies, suggesting that this environment supports AIV circulation. Shorebird locations were farther from agricultural land and poultry operations than were random locations, suggesting selection away from poultry. Further, there was no areal overlap between shorebird home ranges and poultry production areas. Only 37% (22/60) of ruddy turnstones crossed into Delaware from capture sites in New Jersey, suggesting partial site fidelity and AIV gene pool separation between the states. Ruddy turnstones departed en masse around June 1 when AIV prevalence was low or declining, suggesting that a limited number of birds could disperse AIV onto the breeding grounds. This study provides needed insight into AIV and migratory host ecology, and results can inform both domestic animal AIV prevention and shorebird conservation efforts.

Erb L.A.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Erb L.A.,Mid Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation | Willey L.L.,University of Massachusetts Amherst | Willey L.L.,Antioch University New England | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2015

Many reptile species are in decline and turtles are especially susceptible. In Massachusetts, eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) population densities are critically low, and they are listed as a Species of Special Concern. To aid in the conservation of this species, we developed a statewide population monitoring program to track large-scale population trends. We used GENPRES3 to identify the most efficient sampling design a priori. Using this design, we performed visual surveys in 2010-2012 and used site occupancy models to evaluate baseline occupancy and abundance data. We surveyed 62 4-ha monitoring plots within early successional and forest edge habitat where box turtles congregate in the spring for foraging, mating, nesting, and thermoregulation. We also used radio-telemetry at 2 survey sites to evaluate assumptions and further assess occupancy rates, detection estimates, and population size. The best fit Royle-Nichols model predicted a probability of box turtle occupancy of 0.81 ± 0.10 (mean ± SE) and a mean probability of detection of 0.29 ± 0.18. Roads and vegetation density were important covariates affecting the probability of occurrence. Survey start time, humidity, and surveyor were important covariates affecting detection probability. A power analysis indicated that we could detect a 10% decline in occupancy between 5-year sampling rounds within 15 years. The proportion of radio-tagged turtles inside the survey plots during surveys was relatively constant at each site (0.44-0.63 and 0.36-0.43), mean detection rate was 0.35 ± 0.10, and the total estimated population size of the 2 survey plots (8 ha total) was 13.31 ± 1.53. Our results can be used to track the status of this rare species as well as guide conservation actions and evaluate the effectiveness of site-specific and statewide management plans. Our approach and design can serve as a model for other states developing monitoring programs for the eastern box turtle and other similar, rare and difficult to detect species. © Published 2015. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Sirois A.M.,New York University | Gibbs J.P.,New York University | Whitlock A.L.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Erb L.A.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Erb L.A.,Mid Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation
Journal of Herpetology | Year: 2014

Bog Turtles (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) are imperiled by habitat loss and degradation; yet, population responses to habitat management and restoration efforts have not been well documented because of the difficulties of studying this long-lived species. We compared Bog Turtle population demography and habitat use from 1994 to 2009 at two sites in Massachusetts, USA: one site was managed for nonnative invasive species and natural succession (Site 1), and the other site was flooded from American Beaver (Castor canadensis) activity resulting in an expansion of nonnative invasive plants (Site 2). A mark-recapture study involving 90 individual turtles indicated that survival rates and population sizes remained stable before and after habitat management at Site 1 where the extent of high suitable habitat remained the same, whereas population size and survival rates declined at Site 2 where the extent of low suitable habitat increased. Together, these results suggest that habitat management and restoration efforts can improve or maintain the status of Bog Turtle populations. This study supports the value of properly planned and enacted habitat management actions for this federally threatened and state endangered species. © 2014 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

Jones M.T.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Jones M.T.,University of Massachusetts Amherst | Patterson III W.A.,University of Massachusetts Amherst
Rhodora | Year: 2011

We studied the influence of local site characteristics on the abundance of Equisetum scirpoides, a regionally rare, circumboreal species, at five sites in the Deerfield River watershed of Massachusetts, near the southern edge of its range. Equisetum scirpoides was most abundant on north- to northeast-facing, steep slopes (22-34°), with low total basal area (TBA) and small stem size. While E. scirpoides was always found in association with Tsuga canadensis, plots with high-density E. scirpoides were associated with lower Tsuga TBA than "low density/absent" plots. Average Tsuga and deciduous stem diameter at breast height within "high density" plots was significantly lower than in "low density/absent" plots. Our results suggest that E. scirpoides is unlikely to occur on south-facing slopes and, where it occurs on north-facing slopes, it requires low deciduous canopy cover and frequent disturbance, which exposes mineral soil. Equisetum scirpoides was absent from several similar habitats (i.e., with northerly aspect, steep slopes, clay substrate, Tsuga canopy, and massive bank failure) within the study watershed, suggesting that it has low dispersal capability at that scale. © 2011 New England Botanical Club.

Erb L.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Jones M.T.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Jones M.T.,University of Massachusetts Amherst
Northeastern Naturalist | Year: 2011

Early-successional habitats, including agricultural fields, appear to provide important foraging and nesting resource areas for Glyptemys insculpta (Wood Turtle) and Terrapene Carolina Carolina (Eastern Box Turtle) in the northeastern US. Mowing and agricultural activities can elevate turtle mortality rates. We performed two experiments to evaluate the risk of turtle mortality associated with 1) style of mower, 2) mower blade height, and 3) tractor tires. Mower blade height did not affect mortality rates when set to ≤15 cm. Different types of mowers appear to exert differential effects on mortality, with sickle bar mowers resulting in 50% lower mortality rates than rotary mowers and other models. However, mortality due to crushing by tractor tires may be as high as 46%, independent of blade type and height.

Charney N.D.,Bryn Mawr College | Kubel J.E.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program | Eiseman C.S.,Northfield Bancorp
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Improving detection rates for elusive species with clumped distributions is often accomplished through adaptive sampling designs. This approach can be extended to include species with temporally variable detection probabilities. By concentrating survey effort in years when the focal species are most abundant or visible, overall detection rates can be improved. This requires either long-term monitoring at a few locations where the species are known to occur or models capable of predicting population trends using climatic and demographic data. For marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) in Massachusetts, we demonstrate that annual variation in detection probability of larvae is regionally correlated. In our data, the difference in survey success between years was far more important than the difference among the three survey methods we employed: diurnal surveys, nocturnal surveys, and dipnet surveys. Based on these data, we simulate future surveys to locate unknown populations under a temporally adaptive sampling framework. In the simulations, when pond dynamics are correlated over the focal region, the temporally adaptive design improved mean survey success by as much as 26% over a non-adaptive sampling design. Employing a temporally adaptive strategy costs very little, is simple, and has the potential to substantially improve the efficient use of scarce conservation funds. © 2015 Charney et al.

It has long been suspected that Grammia oithona may be a form of G. phyllira, but concrete evidence has been lacking. The only obvious difference between G. oithona and G. phyllira is the presence of cream-colored scales outlining the veins of the forewing of G. oithona. A female G. oithona from Hampden County, Massachusetts, U.S.A., produced progeny consisting of 55 phyllira and 51 oithona. The following year a female G. phyllira from the same locality produced 33 phyllira and 40 oithona. Therefore the name oithona represents a wing pattern phenotype, not a species, at least in the population studied. Progeny of both wild females were bred in captivity, each cross consisting of a virgin female bred with a single male, with eight separate crosses producing offspring. The simplest, most parsimonious hypothesis consistent with the data from all eight crosses is that the wing pattern phenotype is inherited as a single autosomal gene with two alleles, a dominant phyllira allele and a recessive oithona allele; dominance may be incomplete in heterozygotes. Assuming G. phyllira and G. oithona to be conspecific across their composite range, the phyllira phenotype occurs with high frequency in most populations along the East Coast and in the Upper Midwest, and with low frequency in most populations to the west and south of this range. C. phyllira is of conservation concern in the northeastern U.S.A., where it has declined substantially during the past 50 to 100 years. The natural history of G. phyllira is typical of Grammia species, but its dependence on grassland and savanna habitat on dry, sandy soils is an important consideration in conservation and management efforts for this species.

Nelson M.W.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society | Year: 2015

Speranza exonerata Ferguson, 2008 (Geometridae: Ennominae: Macariini) is a stenotopic moth only known from the northeastern USA. This species was reared from ova obtained from captive females in 2008 and 2009; the immature stages and life history are described. Both a larval host plant experiment and the discovery of wild larvae demonstrate that Speranza exonerata feeds on oak (Quercus L.), and does not feed on blueberry (Vaccinium L.). Larvae feed on scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia Wangenh.), including both leaves and catkins, and Speranza exonerata may be a specialist on new growth of this plant. Ova are dormant through late summer, autumn, and winter, and hatch in early spring. Larval development is rapid (3-4 weeks), and corresponds to the availability of new growth of scrub oak. The pupal period is also brief (1-2 weeks), with adult moths flying in early summer.

Nelson M.W.,Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society | Year: 2012

Hadena ectypa (Morrison, 1875) (Noctuidae: Noctuinae: Hadenini) is a rarely encountered moth of conservation concern, inhabiting forest and woodland openings and edges in eastern North America. A population discovered in 2002 in Massachusetts (USA) is the first record of this species in New England. Hadena ectypa larvae from this population were reared in 2003, 2009, and 2010; the immature stages and life history are described. Parasitism by a species of Eulophus Geoffroy, 1762 (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) and predation by Toxomerus geminatus (Say, 1823) (Diptera: Syrphidae) were observed. The native host plant of Hadena ectypa is Silene stellata (L.) W.T. Aiton (Caryophyllaceae), however, the population in Massachusetts uses introduced Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke as the primary larval host. Hadena ectypa could have adopted S. vulgaris as a novel host at any time during the past 200 years. S. vulgaris shares a number of traits with S. stellata that may have facilitated this host shift. Many of these traits are also shared by another introduced species, Silene latifolia Poiret, and while Hadena ectypa will feed on this plant in captivity, is not known to use it in the wild. The adoption of S. vulgaris as a larval host may allow Hadena ectypa to spread to new, weedier habitats, to increase its geographic range, and to increase its propensity for a second annual generation.

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