Lafferty et al. 2016 DCCO Biotic and Abiotic Impacts to Islands in the SE FORECO.pdfForest Ecology and Managment (2016)
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) numbers have increased in North America, and con- comitantly cormorants appear to be expanding their nesting range in the southeastern United States.
Because colonial nesting waterbirds can impact water quality, soil chemistry and subsequent vegetation succession patterns, our goal was to assess the extent to which cormorant breeding colonies are influencing the biotic and abiotic attributes of forested islands in the southeastern United States. Our objectives were to (1) compare water quality characteristics in near-shore surface waters around forested islands with and without nesting cormorants during the peak-nesting/fledgling period and post-fledgling period, (2) measure soil chemistry parameters for forested islands with and without nesting cormorants, and (3) compare tree health metrics on forested islands with and without nesting cormorants. Our results indi- cate that cormorant colonies are not significant contributors to general coliforms or Escherichia coli levels in waters surrounding southern breeding colonies. Cormorants also do not appear to have significant direct effects on water chemistry. We did find that cormorant colonies are affecting soil chemistry. Soil from within the nesting colony was more acidic and had greater concentrations of phosphorous than soils on reference islands. In addition, we found evidence that cormorants are negatively affecting tree health within nesting colonies as evidenced by a greater number of trees of lower vigor class within the nesting colonies compared to reference sites. While cormorants do cause abiotic and biotic changes, these are part of the natural ecological processes that occur following waterbird colonization. Management to reduce unwanted impacts that nesting cormorants are having on forested island habitats should be con- sidered within a framework that allows for natural ecological processes, including changes in soil chem-
istry and subsequent vegetation succession.
- Double-crested Cormorant,
- Forest Health,
- Human-wildlife Conflict,
- Soil Chemistry,
- Water Quality
Publication DateSummer June, 2016
Citation Information2. Lafferty, D., K. C. Hanson-Dorr, A. M. Prisock and B.S. Dorr. 2016. Biotic and abiotic impacts of Double-crested Cormorant breeding colonies on forested islands in the southeastern United States. Forest Ecology and Management, 69:Early View.