With global loss of natural wetlands, managed wetlands increasingly support energy requirements for wintering shorebirds and waterfowl. Despite numerous studies of avian bioenergetics in freshwater systems, less is known of the energetic capacity of estuarine systems. In San Francisco Bay, managed saline ponds converted from former commercial salt evaporation ponds form part of the largest wetland restoration project on the Pacific coast of North America. A daily-ration model was applied to assess carrying capacity for diving ducks and shorebirds during four winter seasons (2007–2010) in seasonal and circulation ponds, each in two salinity classes. Diving ducks comprised an estimated 35,450 ± 1,559 ( ± SE) in average years and 45,458 ± 1,653 in peak years with > 95% in circulation ponds. Shorebirds comprised 64,253 ± 14,838 ( ± SE) in average years and 108,171 ± 4,854 in peak years with > 64% in seasonal ponds. Macroinvertebrate energy density was highest in mesohaline (5–30 ppt) circulation ponds and lowest in seasonal ponds for both guilds. Energy requirements for diving ducks in mesohaline followed by low-hyperhaline (30–80 ppt) circulation ponds were mostly met by available prey energy. Available energy for shorebirds was substantially less than they required in seasonal ponds but exceeded their needs in mesohaline circulation ponds. Mesohaline circulation ponds supported 9,443 ± 1,649 ( ± SE) shorebird use-days·ha-1 of accessible habitat and 2,297 ± 402 diving duck use-days·ha-1 of accessible habitat, twice the capacity of low-hyperhaline circulation ponds and greater than five times that of seasonal ponds for both guilds. Our results indicated that reducing salinity to mesohaline levels and altering water depth to increase accessibility substantially increased energy available for these species in estuarine managed ponds.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1