Piscivorous colonial waterbirds in the Columbia River estuary : demography, dietary contaminants, and management Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/47429c39b

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  • Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia) and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) nest in large colonies on East Sand Island in the Columbia River estuary, the largest known colonies for the two species in the world. Both species of piscivorous colonial waterbirds have been identified as predators with a significant impact on the survival of juvenile salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. To better understand and address issues related to seabird-fisheries interactions in the Columbia River estuary, I conducted studies related to the ecology, conservation, and management of these two species of piscivorous waterbirds. I evaluated the demographics and inter-colony movements of Caspian terns belonging to the Pacific Coast metapopulation, with special emphasis on two breeding colonies, one on East Sand Island in the Columbia River estuary and the other on Crescent Island in the mid-Columbia River, based on re-sightings of color-banded individuals. Apparent annual adult survival at both colonies was high, and age at first reproduction was greater than previously reported for the species. Colony site philopatry of breeding adults at both colonies was high; however, some individuals prospected for breeding colonies over much of the Pacific Coast region and moved to other colonies over distances of up to 3,000 km. Some terns from the large colony in the Columbia River estuary responded quickly to the availability of new colony sites as distant as 550 km from the estuary, and established successful breeding colonies within less than a year of the new sites becoming available. The Caspian tern colony on East Sand Island appears to be an important source colony for a number of smaller, less productive colonies distributed over an extensive area from the Salton Sea, California to the Copper River Delta, Alaska, an area with limited and ephemeral nesting opportunities. Environmental contaminants have been a conservation concern for wildlife in the Columbia River estuary, especially species that consume fish and are therefore likely to bioaccumulate persistent organic pollutants. I measured and compared levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in eggs and chicks of Caspian terns and doublecrested cormorants, as well as their primary prey fish types, at colonies on East Sand Island and farther up-river. Based on differences in tern and cormorant diet composition at the various study colonies, higher PCB levels in eggs and chicks were associated with diets dominated by resident freshwater and estuarine fishes. PCB levels in prey fish were positively correlated with lipid content; however, PCB levels in the livers of chicks were negatively correlated with chick fat scores, suggesting that chick fat reserves are a sink for ingested PCBs. Lower PCB levels in terns and cormorants from East Sand Island compared to colonies farther up-river reflected diets with a higher proportion of marine forage fishes at East Sand Island; marine forage fishes had lower average levels of PCBs than their resident freshwater and estuarine counterparts. In order to explore non-destructive techniques for managing nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants, I evaluated habitat enhancement and social attraction, two techniques that have proven effective for relocating Caspian tern colonies to sites where impacts on fish stocks of conservation concern would be minimal. Cormorants were attracted to nest and successfully raised young at test plots on East Sand Island and on islands in the estuary with a previous history of cormorant nesting or unsuccessful nesting attempts. On an island with no history of cormorant nesting or prospecting, however, no cormorants were attracted to nest. My results suggest that attraction of nesting cormorants using these techniques is dependent on the previous history of cormorant nesting or nesting attempts, the frequency and intensity of disturbance by potential predators, and the presence of breeding cormorants nearby. While habitat enhancement and social attraction have potential as methods for redistributing nesting cormorants away from areas where fish stocks of concern are highly susceptible to predation, successful establishment of new colonies using these techniques will likely require a focus on sites with a history of cormorant nesting. Findings from this dissertation raise some concerns over the management of Caspian tern and double-crested cormorant colonies on East Sand Island in order to redistribute parts of these colonies to alternative sites and mitigate the impact of those piscivorous colonial waterbirds on ESA-listed salmonids. East Sand Island has supported source colonies of piscivorous colonial waterbirds for many smaller colonies throughout the region and is close to an abundant and relatively uncontaminated food supply. Also, alternative colony sites that can substitute for East Sand Island are not readily apparent, especially for double-crested cormorants. Therefore, management of Caspian tern and double-crested cormorant colonies on East Sand Island to benefit Columbia Basin salmonids needs to proceed cautiously and reversibly because of the implications for the region-wide populations of these piscivorous colonial waterbirds.
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  • description.provenance : Submitted by Yasuko Suzuki (suzukiy@onid.orst.edu) on 2012-02-24T19:16:30Z No. of bitstreams: 3 SuzukiYasuko2012.pdf: 1077148 bytes, checksum: a7d169029746eaebab8439430dea8e59 (MD5) license_rdf: 22765 bytes, checksum: 56265f5776a16a05899187d30899c530 (MD5) license_text: 0 bytes, checksum: d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e (MD5)
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