Understanding the Distribution, Density and Demography of MacGillivray’s Seaside Sparrow in South Carolina

Event Location: 
BCCMWS Room 100
Event Date: 
Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 3:00pm
Event Type: 
SCMSS Seminar Series

Presenter: John Laskaris

Understanding the dynamics between sea level rise and management strategies upon endemic tidal marsh birds will help increase effective conservation methods.  By using a population viability analysis (PVA) to evaluate the relative impacts of two sea level rise scenarios and two prescribed fire management scenarios on seaside sparrows, Kern et al. determined marsh loss via sea level rise to have the greater impact on sparrow population viability than management via prescribed burn.  These results have significant implications on the effectiveness of traditional marsh management strategies, which have positive effects on seaside sparrow persistence but do nothing to reduce rate of marsh loss. Marsh management strategies should therefore shift from traditional methods to proactive management strategies including assisted accretion and facilitated marsh transgression. 

This research has important implications for wetland conservation in the southeast, where marsh management strategies differ substantially and are more geared towards management of impoundments. Little is known about the demographics and behavior of MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, whose range extends from North Carolina to northern Florida.  Marsh loss via sea level rise, pollution, and increasing coastal development present a threat to this subspecies, along with wintering seaside sparrow populations and several other marsh endemics, whose populations depend on high quality, unfragmented marsh for food, nesting habitat and migration. 

The status of MacGillivray’s Seaside Sparrow in South Carolina is poorly understood due to difficulty in accessing salt marsh habitats to perform breeding bird surveys, and sheer volume of salt marsh habitat within the state.  By performing a site-intensive demographic study and statewide breeding bird surveys using adapted SHARP survey protocols, we can better understand the distribution, density and demography of MacGillivray’s Seaside Sparrow in South Carolina. 

Kern RA, Shriver WG (2014) Sea Level Rise and Prescribed Fire Management: Implications for Seaside Sparrow Population Viability.  Biological Conservation 173: 24-31