Wildlife Use Patterns in a Constructed Wetland

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray and Dr. K. Greg Murray

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Wildlife land use patterns were monitored from January 2015 through April 2016 at ten sites near the West Michigan Regional Airport before, during, and after conversion of agricultural land to a mitigation wetland by the Outdoor Discovery Center/Macatawa Greenway. Due to concerns about potential collisions between aircraft and wildlife attracted to the restored wetland, point count surveys and trail cameras are being used to track changes in bird and mammal abundance in various habitats around the airport. Based on published studies of hazards to aircraft, animals were grouped into four impact categories: deer, high impact animals, low impact animals, and small mammals. Changes in animal abundance were compared among sites representing open water, the restoration construction site, existing wet meadow, and airport property while correcting for extreme seasonal variation. Sites with open water were found to have higher abundance of animals than either the wetland construction site or the airport property. Overall, there were significant differences in abundance among the different sites for both high impact animals and small mammals, but these differences are generally overwhelmed by seasonal variation. The existing wet meadow site showed high variation in abundance of animals in all four impact categories, but generally those abundances were not significantly different from wildlife abundance in the other monitored habitats. Wildlife monitoring is expected to continue for the next two years to enable documentation of post-restoration changes, as well as to establish baseline data on the seasonality of wildlife use at all sites.

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