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Humans disturb piping plovers on nonbreeding grounds

Cara J

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Most piping plover (Charadrius melodus) research focuses on disturbances during their breeding season, but researchers recently found anthropogenic disturbances can also have consequences for the shorebirds where they overwinter. “The nonbreeding season is a very important part of the piping plover lifecycle, and disturbances that they face during this season can really have population-level consequences,” said Daniel Gibson, a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Tech and lead author of the recent study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications. Gibson’s project began when his colleagues were studying piping plovers after the Deepwater Horizon spill. They picked an area in Georgia as a control site to compare plovers inside and outside of the spill area. By happenstance, Georgia had a major cold weather event that changed the course of the study. “In January and February 2011, people in the field noticed a 50 percent reduction in survival over a two-week period,” he said. “Our control site had less survivability than the Deepwater Horizon sites.” This led Gibson and his colleagues to look at piping plovers on their nonbreeding grounds and the environmental factors that may affect them. In North and South Carolina and Georgia, they also began noticing variation in the amounts of [...]

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