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Factors Influencing Wood Stork Prey Biomass in Roadside Created Wetlands

Betsy A. Evans1,2,*, Jessica A. Klassen1, Dale E. Gawlik1,3, and Andrew D. Gottlieb4

1Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431. 2Current address - US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Florida Field Station, 2820 East University Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32641. 3Current address - Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412. 4South Florida Engineering and Consulting, 30 S M Street, Lake Worth, FL 33460. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 22, Issue 1 (2023): 1–20

Infrastructure associated with a growing human population has disrupted hydrologic patterns and impacted wetland species such as Mycteria americana (Wood Stork). However, storks are commonly observed foraging along roadways in created wetlands and nesting in urban environments, suggesting that these areas may provide novel foraging habitat. We sampled both permanently inundated and ephemeral created wetlands to determine which hydrologic, vegetative, and physical attributes are associated with high stork prey biomass. Factors influencing stork prey biomass differed between permanently inundated and ephemeral created wetlands. Landscape-level vegetation and the physical properties of a wetland were more influential in permanently inundated ponds and canals whereas local-scale vegetation and hydrologic conditions were most influential in ephemeral ponds and swales. Furthermore, aquatic fauna biomass in permanently inundated created wetlands was 9x greater than in natural wetlands, and aquatic fauna biomass was even greater in the urban landscape. These findings suggest that created wetlands may serve as additional foraging habitat for Wood Storks. As natural wetlands continue to be lost and managed for human purposes, created wetlands should be considered in conservation plans and future management decisions for Wood Storks and other wading birds given their ability to produce wading bird prey.

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