Bird Use of Restoration and Reference Marshes Within the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, Stonington, Connecticut, USA

Environ Manage. 1998 Jul;22(4):625-33. doi: 10.1007/s002679900134.


/ Tidal marshes have been actively restored in Connecticut for nearly 20 years, but evaluations of these projects are typically based solely on observations of vegetation change. A formerly impounded valley marsh at the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area is a notable exception; previous research at this site has also included assessments of primary productivity, macroinvertebrates, and use by fishes. To determine the effects of marsh restoration on higher trophic levels, we monitored bird use at five sites within the Barn Island complex, including both restoration and reference marshes. Use by summer bird populations within fixed plots was monitored over two years at all sites. Our principal focus was Impoundment One, a previously impounded valley marsh reopened to full tidal exchange in 1982. This restoration site supported a greater abundance of wetland birds than our other sites, indicating that it is at least equivalent to reference marshes within the same system for this ecological function. Moreover, the species richness of birds and their frequency of occurrence at Impoundment One was greater than at 11 other estuarine marshes in southeastern Connecticut surveyed in a related investigation. A second marsh, under restoration for approximately ten years, appears to be developing in a similar fashion. These results complement previous studies on vegetation, macroinvertebrates, and fish use in this system to show that, over time, the reintroduction of tidal flooding can effectively restore important ecological functions to previously impounded tidal marshes.KEY WORDS: Estuarine; Tidal marsh; Wetland birds; Restoration