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We evaluated the nesting ecology of Terrapene Carolina Carolina (Eastern Box Turtle) near their northern range limit in Massachusetts. We identified 34 nests in 2005 and 2006 at 4 study sites, and measured clutch size, nest success, hatchling size, and habitat characteristics at each site. Mean clutch size was 5.87 eggs, and egg survival was approximately 50% to hatching, excluding depredation. Large-bodied females tended to oviposit larger clutches than small-bodied females, although the correlation was not significant, and a smaller proportion of their eggs produced live hatchlings. Nest depredation varied greatly across sites from 0 to nearly 100%. The variability observed across the species' range and across sites underscores the importance of obtaining local information when developing conservation and management programs for rare turtles. The characteristics of the nest sites observed in our study could be simulated to more effectively create or maintain artificial nest sites for Eastern Box Turtles in the Northeast.
Barbour's Pond is a 4.45-ha pond located in Garrett Mountain Reservation in Passaic County in northern New Jersey, one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. Despite its small size and surrounding urban sprawl, the shallow waters of this pond hold 18 species of molluscs. Monthly samples from March 2004 through March 2006 found the highest diversity in December 2004, and in January, June, and July 2005. Additional samples were taken in April 2007 and May 2010 to spot-check relative diversity years after the original sampling period. Total molluscan abundance was greatest in July and November 2004, possibly reflecting new late spring and autumn cohorts. Univariate statistics demonstrate that this pond has a temporally stable and diverse malacofauna. Analysis, of basic environmental parameters including temperature and pH, however, showed little correlation with molluscan diversity over time, underscoring the stable yet complex nature of biodiversity of this small urban pond.
The forests of the northeastern United States have become less contiguous and vigorous over the last century due to threats including acid rain, ice storm damage, and forest diseases. Often, trees have become the targets of widescale disease and pest out-breaks. Beech bark disease has been successful because of the effectiveness of the scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga and the opportunistic Nectria coccinea var. faginata fungal vector. Since the severity of beech bark disease negatively affects mast production and canopy turnover, the abundance of small-mammal and insect populations can be limited. We explored the effects of beech bark disease, as well as other abiotic factors, on the diversity of small-mammal and invertebrate populations. We expected that biodiversity would vary according to disease severity in Fagus grandifolia (American Beech) stands, such that higher biodiversity and more seed predators would be noted in healthier forests. At sites in New York and Vermont, Sherman and pitfall traps were used to capture mammals and invertebrates, respectively. Correlations between tree size and disease severity levels were quantified by noting the diameter at breast height (dbh) and by ranking according to disease intensity levels. Although biodiversity indices were not significantly different among sites, there were significant differences in dbh (F = 3.48, P = 0.0154, d.f. = 3) and disease intensity levels (F = 21.13, P < 0.0001, d.f. = 3). Surprisingly in 2008, beechnut seed production was greatest in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the site with the greatest disease manifestation. Mammal richness was highest at the Champlain Valley site where there were fewer Napaeozapus insignius (Woodland Jumping Mice). Patterns of small-mammal abundance at the stand level, elucidated in canonical correspondence analyses, were explained in part by land-use history, soil characteristics, elevation, recent cutting, temperature, and precipitation in 2007. Invertebrate family richness was greatest in the Adirondacks of New York as compared to other sites. At the site level, beechnut density, land-use history, and soil order were the most important variables explaining variation in invertebrate assemblages. Results from this study show that patterns of biodiversity cannot be directly explained by disease and beech mast alone in the short-term. Rather, multi-year community dynamics must be measured.
Canis latrans (Coyote) populations are expanding throughout the eastern United States, making them the apex predator in many systems. Despite abundant research in the western United States, relatively little information exists on the space use or feeding patterns of Coyotes in the forested landscapes of the Appalachians. We used radio-telemetry and scat analysis to describe seasonal habitat use and feeding patterns of Coyotes in central West Virginia during 2006–2008. Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) was the most common prey, occurring in 76% of scats collected in winter and 45% of scats collected in summer. Rodents were the most common prey item in summer, occurring in 48% of scats; other prey items occurred in <20% of scats. Coyotes selected for recently harvested forest stands while avoiding intact stands in both summer and winter. Despite exhibiting seasonal prey-switching behavior, Coyotes in this region do not alter habitat-use patterns with respect to season. Coyotes in our study seem to be opportunistic feeders that prefer areas with abundant cover. Their opportunistic feeding patterns may contribute to their rapid population expansion in this region.
The effect of Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) on Lupinus perennis (Sundial Lupine) was quantified for a site in Worcester County, MD. The reproductive output of Lupine protected by deer exclosures was compared with Lupine that received no protection from deer. Lupine in the exclosures had a higher likelihood of producing seed pods and produced a greater number of seed pods per inflorescence. The implications of these results on Callophrys irus (Frosted Elfins) are discussed.
We evaluated the status of fish communities from 30 first- to fourth-order wadeable Youghiogheny River (YR) tributaries located in the Allegheny Mountain Section (AMS) and Pittsburgh Low Plateau (PLP) physiographic provinces in Pennsylvania. The AMS is underlain primarily by geologic formations dominated by the Allegheny Group, while the Casselman Formation underlies much of the PLP. Streams draining the AMS were primarily forested, low-order (1–2), high-gradient, and poorly-buffered with minimal cultural influences. By contrast, the majority of the PLP was drained by low-gradient, well-buffered, valley streams of order ≥2, with varying anthropogenic influences. In order to characterize connectivity, all streams were sampled from their mainstream junctions to an endpoint 200 m upstream utilizing back-pack electrofishing. A total of 366 fishes representing seven families, 17 genera, and 22 species were collected from AMS streams, while the PLP yielded 2738 fishes representing 8 families, 25 genera, and 41 species. Five AMS streams and one from the PLP were fishless. The principal factors influencing fish distribution, species richness, and density on AMS streams were order, total alkalinity, and barriers to mainstem connectivity; in addition to stream order and total alkalinity, fish communities of the PLP were affected to varying degrees by cultural stressors including surface mining and urbanization. This approach could be applied throughout the United States at regional appropriate scales to document zoogeographic patterns of fish distribution relative to contemporary and future anthropogenic influences.
Fish communities at nine sites in three estuaries, all emptying into Charlottetown Harbour, PE, Canada, were sampled with beach seines to assess variability at small spatial (at the same sites, between sites within estuaries, between adjacent estuaries) and temporal (minutes, hours, days, months, ebb and flood tides) scales. A total of 11 species were identified, of which two (Fundulus heteroclitus [Mummichog] and Menidia menidia [Atlantic Silverside]) made up more than 90% of the individuals captured. Samples from the same sites taken 20–30 min apart did not differ with respect to number of individuals, number of species caught, or species diversity. However, the cumulative number of species continued to increase over the first five of six samples with repeated sampling at the same location. On larger spatial scales, communities (as measured by the Global R coefficients) differed more between sites within estuaries than between adjacent estuaries. Temporal variability in fish community composition was minimal and increased with increasing time between seine hauls. Time of day was weakly but positively correlated with the number of species captured, fish communities captured during flood and ebb tides did not differ significantly, and slightly more species were captured in June than in either July or August. An understanding of variability in beach seine samples taken at small spatial and temporal scales is important before implementing sampling programs to look at broad-scale patterns in fish communities.
The prevalence of parasite infections in Littorina littorea (Common Periwinkle) was examined at 16 rocky intertidal sites along the New Hampshire coastline over three summers (2006 to 2008). We sampled over a relatively small spatial scale (21 km) and expected that the prevalence of infections in L. littorea would be similar between sites over this sampling area. In total, 1983 snails were collected from areas at mean low water during spring tides. Snail size (mm), gender, and type of parasitic infection were noted for all snails. Eleven percent of snails collected were infected with rediae and cercariae of the trematodes Cryptocotyle lingua or Cercaria parvicaudata; one snail had a double infection of both trematodes. The prevalence of infection at sites ranged from 1.9% to 30.1%. At all sites, female snails outnumbered male snails, and a greater proportion of females were infected than males. Large snails were more likely to be infected with trematodes at 3 sites, while a higher level of infection was found in small snails at 1 site. Snails at wave-protected sites were more likely to be infected than snails at wave-exposed sites. No relationship was found between the number of gulls at a site and the prevalence of infection. Although temporal variation in levels of prevalence in parasitic infections may explain some of our site-to-site differences, our data show large spatial variation of parasite prevalence in L. littorea over a minimum distance of 0.5 km and provide a foundation to test hypotheses concerning the susceptibility of female and immature (small) snails to infection.
Nekton tidal migration patterns were examined in oligo-mesohaline intertidal salt marsh creeks using underwater video observations collected throughout multiple tidal cycles (i.e., flood-ebb) during summer 2005–2006. Underwater video observations indicated that species composition and abundances varied with tide stage. Three intertidal salt marsh species (Fundulus heteroclitus, Morone americana, Menidia menidia) were the most abundant species observed. In general, resident species were most abundant in early flood and late ebb tide stages, whereas transient species were most abundant around slack high tide. F. heteroclitus displayed a consistent symmetrical tidal migration pattern and primarily occurred in early flood and late ebb tide stages. M. americana occurred throughout flood and high tides, but were largely absent from intertidal creeks during ebb tide. M. menidia was observed during all tide stages, but displayed no distinct migration patterns. The results of this study highlight the advantages and disadvantages of using underwater video for examining small-scale tidal migrations of nekton in intertidal salt marsh creeks.
St. Pauls Inlet, a fjord-type estuary on Newfoundland's west coast, was sampled for near-shore fish populations during August 2010. A total of 1451 fish were caught, comprising 15 species and representing nine families. Sampling was carried out using a 10-m beach seine, minnow traps, and multi-paneled gill nets. The objective of this study was to document the near-shore fish fauna within St. Pauls Inlet and compare with other data sets from Newfoundland and Labrador. A total of seven sites were sampled along the Inlet and the outer bay. Sites were chosen to best represent a potential range in salinities, and for ease of accessibility. Cluster analysis performed on species presence/absence data indicated high similarity between sites based on the Jaccard similarity coefficient. In terms of regional fish fauna, the St. Pauls sites clustered with freshwater-influenced sites from Bonne Bay (western Newfoundland), and were distinct from the more marine sites of Trinity Bay (eastern Newfoundland) and Gilbert Bay (Labrador).
Excessive growth of macroalgae in estuarine systems is becoming increasingly common among coastal communities throughout the world. Despite repeated observations of macroalgae growing or deposited among the stems of lower marsh plants, few studies have quantitatively documented the presence of macroalgae in salt marsh communities. We conducted monthly surveys during 2009 and 2010 to document the species composition and abundance of the macroalgal community, along with associated biological and physical parameters, in 9 Rhode Island salt marshes. Macroalgae were found in every site during each month sampled, with a peak biomass during the fall, reaching densities up to 1500 g/m2 (wet mass). Nearly 80% of the macroalgae was found in the first 2 m of the lower marsh zone. Fucus spp. were dominant throughout the year, accounting for almost 70% of the annual abundance. While several biological parameters were measured in this study that may contribute to macroalgal accumulation, it is likely that a combination of biotic and abiotic factors drive macroalgal accumulation patterns in these systems.
Given the paucity of literature on plant-fungal interactions on serpentine soils and limited investigation of serpentine geoecology in eastern North America, we examined mycorrhizal colonization of Hypericum perforatum from adjacent serpentine and granite outcrops on the Deer Isles, ME to determine whether plants were differentially colonized based on substrate. We coincided our sampling with three phenologic stages of H. perforatum (preflowering, flowering, postflowering) to determine possible differences in colonization based on plant phenology. The levels of mycorrhizal colonization in H. perforatum were not significantly different between serpentine and granite sites, while levels of colonization in postflowering plants were significantly higher than in those at preflowering and flowering stages.
Although crows cast pellets, there is little quantitative information on pellets from Corvus brachyrhynchos (American Crow), and none from C. ossifragus (Fish Crow). During a study of crow roost dispersal in Lancaster, PA, we collected samples of pellets from several locations. By mass, pellets consisted mostly of grit and other fine inorganic material, various seeds (principally Toxicodendron radicans [Poison Ivy] and Celtis occidentalis [Common Hackberry]), and vegetation remnants. Six pellets contained small-mammal bones. Because the Lancaster winter crow population included many Fish Crows, the source of the pellets was not certain. To clarify this, we compared the size of the Lancaster crow pellets to those produced by captive Fish Crows, and we provide the first quantitative description of pellets for either species. Our size comparisons suggest that >90% of the pellets in our sample from Lancaster were produced by American Crows.