Conservation practitioners often rely on experience rather than scientific evidence when making management decisions. These experience-based measures can waste limited time and funding if the given conservation practice is ineffective. Unanalyzed conservation strategies may negatively impact the species that is being protected. The use of predator exclosures to increase hatching success in ground-nesting shorebirds has been studied for almost two decades, yet their effectiveness is still debated. In ecosystems where predation pressure is particularly strong, electrified exclosures have been adopted; however, there are no studies on their efficacy or potential negative impacts. We conducted a nest survival analysis for 10 years (1998-2007) of piping plover monitoring data to determine: 1) the effectiveness of predator exclosures and electrified predator exclosures, and 2) conditions associated with nest abandonments at electrified exclosures. We found that predator exclosures significantly increase nest hatching success. Electrified exclosures can also be very effective at increasing hatching success under certain conditions, but at sites with high human disturbance and red fox densities, the proportion of exclosed nests that are abandoned by parental adults becomes sizeable. The direct cause of nest abandonments remains unclear since fox behavior on beaches and the dynamics of foxes and plovers at exclosures have not been studied. Our results suggest that such information is necessary if conservation practitioners can make more informed use of this direct management measure.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Nest success
- New Jersey
- Piping plover