Sea level rise threatens salt marshes worldwide, negatively impacting organisms that use these habitats, especially those that heavily rely on these areas, such as the Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus), Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), and Nelson's Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni). Because of the threats of sea level rise and coastal development, all three of these species have been listed as a species of conservation concern. Even though knowledge of these species' breeding ecology is increasing, there is little knowledge of their winter ecology. Current observations reveal that individuals of the three species are caught in different proportions at different sites. The goal of this project is to gather data on wintering ecology of Saltmarsh Sparrows so that better conservation and management measures may be implemented. The questions this project will attempt to address are:
- Is the pattern of capturing different proportions of each sparrow species at different sites widespread?
- Why are different proportions of each species seen at different marshes? And
- Are any landscape variables good predictors of the presence of any of the three sparrow species?
In order to answer these questions, sparrows will be banded in at least five marshes, with each marsh having multiple sites. Landscape variables such as marsh size and percentages of open water cover, low and high marsh cover, and mudflat cover will be assessed in GIS. Ground surveys of vegetation composition will be completed by establishing 1-m2 quadrats at random points within each marsh. Data gathered from this project can be combined with models of marsh change caused by sea level rise and development to predict how these factors will affect wintering sparrow populations.