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J.4-2: Identifying critical nesting habitat for ducks in Alberta's western boreal forest.

Presented by Matthew Dyson - Email: mdyson@uwaterloo.ca

The western boreal forest (WBF) is an important breeding area for North American ducks, second only to the Canadian Prairies. The WBF is under intensive industrial development, causing habitat loss and fragmentation. Land use change can have profound effects on predator-prey interactions and influence population dynamics. In most avian species, nest success is critical to population persistence. Therefore, species are under intense selective pressure in choosing a safe nest site. Currently, we have limited knowledge of duck nesting ecology in the WBF, including the influence of changing land use practices on how ducks select nest sites. We investigated nest-site selection of ground nesting ducks in the WBF of Alberta at multiple spatial scales using logistic regression-based resource selection functions. We located 167 duck nests of 8 different species between 2016 and 2018 by nest searching across a gradient of industrial development. We hypothesized nest-site selection strategies associated with habitat and land use variables would vary by species and with spatial scale. We also hypothesized that industrial development increased predation and expected ducks to avoid highly disturbed habitats. In addition to quantifying the nesting-ecology relationships for multiple species and scales, we spatially predicted our best models to identify nesting habitat for boreal ducks. These maps can help prioritize habitat conservation and represent the first step towards understanding the nesting ecology of ducks in this important region.
Session: Ducks in the North (Friday, August 30, 13:20 to 15:00)