- Snowy plover -- Habitat -- Conservation,
- Wildlife habitat improvement
Management to increase reproductive success is commonly used to aid recovery of threatened and endangered species. The Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) breeds from coastal Washington, USA, to Baja California, Mexico, and in disjunct interior sites. The Pacific coast population is federally listed as Threatened; habitat loss and nest loss to a suite of terrestrial and avian predators are thought to be primary factors limiting population growth in this species. In coastal Oregon, USA, a consortium of state and federal management agencies deployed nest exclosures on active Snowy Plover nests, initiated a lethal predator management program, and conducted local-scale habitat management in an effort to boost local productivity. During 1990–2009, we monitored 1,951 Snowy Plover nests at 9 sites with varying treatments. We examined the effectiveness of 3 types of nest exclosures (large, small, and outfitted with electric wire), predator removal, and habitat management on nest survival. Habitat management to remove invasive grasses and provide more suitable nesting substrate more than doubled nest survival. Predator management or use of any of the 3 types of exclosures also affected nest survival. There appeared to be no additional benefit to using both approaches, but the biological relevance of these findings is unclear because of site differences in treatments applied. Importantly, these management techniques only affected nesting success; their effect on other contributions to population viability (e.g., fledging success) was not correlated with nesting success. This long-term study illustrates the short-term benefits and tradeoffs of using nest exclosures, predator management, and habitat restoration to improve nesting success. Although we gained broader insight into the relative efficacy of common management techniques to improve avian nesting success, we cannot yet determine how improved nest success contributes to population growth.