Master's Theses

Date of Award

Spring 2007

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

Advisor

Elmer Finck

Abstract

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has provided many benefits for wildlife and has become (an instrumental tool for wildlife conservation on privately owned land. However, enrollment quotas within the general sign-up for the CRP often are leaving large areas that were applied for enrollment without the perennial cover offered by the CRP. The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) offers opportunities to enroll critical areas of fields, or buffers, into perennial cover. One practice, contour grass strips (CP 15), might offer many agricultural benefits in addition to providing benefits for wild life. During the 2005 and 2006 breeding season, I studied the species richness and relative abundance of grassland birds in western Kansas to see if a difference existed between wheat fields enrolled in CP 15 and wheat fields not enrolled in CP 15. In addition, I assessed the habitat characteristics in fields enrolled in CP 15 and fields not enrolled in CP 15. I Also compared the use of two methods (line-transect survey and electronic recorders) to measure species richness. During both years, 16 species were detected by using the line-transect survey in fields enrolled in CP 15 and fields not enrolled in CP 15. Species richness and overall relative abundance of birds as well as relative abundance estimates for western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater), and red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) were greater in fields enrolled in CP 15. Relative abundance for the dickcissel (Spiza americana) was nearly significant between fields enrolled in CP 15 and fields not enrolled in CP 15. The electronic recorders also detected greater species richness in the fields enrolled in CP 15 than in fields not enrolled in CP15 and the electronic recorders detected greater species richness than the line- transect survey. However, relative abundance estimates for the ring-necked pheasant and northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) were not different between treatments when using the electronic recorders. The habitat provided by fields enrolled in CP 15 was significantly different than fields not enrolled in CP 15, and primarily was influenced by percent of dead forb live grass, and live forb. A thorough evaluation of attributes other than relative abundance (e.g. nest success) should be assessed before CP 15 is promoted as a tool for grassland bird conservation.

Rights

Copyright 2007 Benjamin David Wheeler

Comments

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