Although much of the Arctic Coastal Plain has remained undeveloped, oil and gas industries, new and expanding villages, as well as tourism are likely to increase in the near future. One potential effect of increased human development is increased anthropogenic waste and the need to dispose of this waste in landfills. We investigated potential indirect effects of the North Slope Borough landfill on breeding shorebirds by examining changes in environmental conditions (predator densities and timing of snow melt) and measures of shorebird reproduction (nest-initiation dates, nest density, nest survival, and return rates) in relation to construction and deposition of waste in the landfill. This study included one year of pre-construction data (2004), three years when landfill roads and fences were being constructed (2005–2007), and five years when waste was being deposited (2008–2012). We monitored 364 shorebird nests within a 36-ha plot (approximately half of which was inside the landfill and half outside). Construction of a fence around the landfill reduced snow levels inside the landfill, leading to earlier snow melt and likely to shorebirds initiating nests earlier. Densities of avian predators increased following waste deposition, but nest densities, nest survival, and return rates were generally greater inside the landfill than outside in all years after landfill construction. Our results indicate that fences placed around landfills and procedures to reduce attraction of predators to landfills can minimize indirect negative effects of landfill construction and operation and even favor species breeding in the area.
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Vol. 115 • No. 4