America's pine plantations provide hope for the future of the Swainson's warbler
The Swainson's warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) is one of the rarest and most secretive songbirds in North America, prized by birdwatchers in the southeastern U.S. hoping to catch a glimpse of it in the wild or hear its beautiful ringing song.
With only 90,000 breeding individuals sparsely distributed across 15 states in the U.S., the Swainson's warbler is a species of high conservation concern that, for decades, has left conservationists with little confidence that its populations would ever be fully secure.
However, new research published in the Oct. 30 edition of Bird Conservation International by Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History scientist Gary Graves reveals that populations of Swainson's warbler are increasing in a surprising new habitat found mostly on private lands—pine plantations on nearly 16 million hectares on the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeastern Virginia.
The study compiles data from 20 years of field studies and suggests that if current trends continue, forests managed as short-rotation pine plantations will support the majority of Swainson's warbler breeding populations by the end of the 21st century.
"The Swainson's warbler is becoming a conservation success story in a habitat that was once feared to be a biological desert," said Graves, curator of birds in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. "This is a prime example of how intensive management of forest lands for industrial purposes can have a direct impact on bird populations in a positive way."
The rarity of the Swainson's warbler has long been attributed to its finicky preference for large areas of densely vegetated breeding habitat in the southeastern U.S. and wintering range in the Caribbean basin. However, new research in the 1990s revealed that this warbler could be found in a surprisingly wide spectrum of habitats, including young loblolly pine plantations in eastern Texas. Graves believes that the common denominators of breeding habitats are dense understory vegetation, quite often impenetrable, and moist soils carpeted with leaf litter.
In the case of short-rotation pine plantations in the southeastern U.S., there is a seven-to-eight–year window when the plantations are dense enough to support populations of Swainson's warbler. Once this period ends and the plantations thin out, Graves believes that the warblers will likely relocate to nearby younger plantations that exhibit the desired foliage density.
As part of its vast collections, the National Museum of Natural History stewards the type specimen of Swainson's warbler, the original specimen that John James Audubon used to describe the new species in 1834.
The Swainson's warbler is a small olive-brown bird with pale yellowish-white underparts that measures approximately 5.5 inches long. It uses its bill to forage on the forest floor, flipping leaves over and feeding on the insects living beneath them. This warbler is known for its loud, distinctive song and secretive behavior. Despite its small size, male Swainson's warblers defend large territories that range in size from 3 to 18 hectares.
Graves used playbacks of warbler songs to detect these reclusive birds during field surveys throughout the southeastern U.S. Future research will focus on the characteristics of pine stands and soils that promote the colonization of pine plantations by the Swainson's warbler.
Kathryn Sabella | EurekAlert!
The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).
The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research