Metapopulation dynamics of northern great plains piping plovers
Piping plovers ( Charadrius melodus) are a Federally threatened shorebird that breeds in three principal habitat types in the Northern Great Plains (NGP): reservoir shorelines, alkali wetlands (including managed impoundments on refuges and isolated wetlands on private lands), and midchannel emergent sandbars on major river systems in the Missouri River Basin. However, the long-term concurrent mark-recapture programs on the Missouri River have thus far been limited to the lower Missouri and Platte rivers, a region that represents only one of the three primary habitat types (e.g. midchannel emergent sandbars). In contrast, the northern Missouri River system (e.g. Lake Oahe north to the Garrison dam, Lake Sakakawea, and the Alkali Lakes) is characterized by far lower densities of nesting plovers and a more diverse array of habitat types, including reservoir, Alkali Lake, and riverine/sandbar, all of which are utilized by nesting plovers.
Unsurprisingly, this diversity introduces several environmental processes, with the potential for profound demographic effects, which are largely unique to the northern half of the system. Given the diversity of this system, it would be inappropriate to assume the dynamics exhibited along the well-studied lower Missouri and Platte rivers is necessarily representative of population dynamics throughout the entire system. We are specifically interested in investigating one particular component unique to the northern half of the system: the impact of reservoir water level rise on the movement and renesting propensity of breeding adults. To do this we will estimate the probability of nesting success, fledging success and survival at each of the study areas, as well as the probability that the plovers produced in a given study area remain there or move to nest elsewhere in subsequent years.
Erin A Roche