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Reproductive Success of Belding's Savannah Sparrows
in a Highly Fragmented Landscape

Conservation Implications

Preservation of wetlands is critical for many species. Avian species richness has been correlated with wetland area in freshwater marshes, although not all species are area-dependent (Brown and Dinsmore 1986, Celada and Bogliani 1995). Despite the positive relationship between wetland area and avian diversity, small wetlands are critical for poor dispersers, and modeling has shown that loss of small wetlands can increase the extinction risk for certain taxa (Gibbs 1993). Moreover, habitat fragments that serve as population sinks may be important, because they can augment the size of metapopulations and contribute to genetic diversity (Howe et al. 1991, Fleischer 1995). In addition to effects on populations, wetlands that are isolated from natural upland habitats may have lower biodiversity (Burke and Gibbons 1995).

Although coastal salt marshes may not support a high diversity of breeding birds compared with freshwater wetlands (Burger et al. 1982), they are critical to wetland-dependant species such as Belding's Savannah Sparrows. Our results underscore the need for restoration plans (Zedler 1996) that include the preservation and enhancement of both large and small salt marsh ecosystems (Bildstein et al. 1991, Erwin et al. 1995).

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