Do Tropical Cyclones Shape Shorebird Habitat Patterns? Biogeoclimatology of Snowy Plovers in Florida
ENGINEER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER CONCORD MA
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The Gulf coastal ecosystems in Florida are foci of the highest species richness of imperiled shoreline dependent birds in the USA. However environmental processes that affect their macroecological patterns, like occupancy and abundance, are not well unraveled. In Florida the Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus is resident along northern and western white sandy estuarineocean beaches and is considered a state-threatened species. MethodologyPrincipal Findings Here we show that favorable nesting areas along the Florida Gulf coastline are located in regions impacted relatively more frequently by tropical cyclones. The odds of Snowy Plover nesting in these areas during the spring following a tropical cyclone impact are seven times higher compared to the odds during the spring following a season without a cyclone. The only intensity of a tropical cyclone does not appear to be a significant factor affecting breeding populations. ConclusionsSignificance Nevertheless a future climate scenario featuring fewer, but more extreme cyclones could result in a decrease in the breeding Snowy Plover population and its breeding range. This is because the spatio-temporal frequency of cyclone events was found to significantly affect nest abundance. Due to the similar geographic range and habitat suitability, and no decrease in nest abundance of other shorebirds in Florida after the cyclone season, our results suggest a common bioclimatic feedback between shorebird abundance and tropical cyclones in breeding areas which are affected by cyclones.