The Effects of Recreational Activities on Avian Occupancy and Breeding Success in Denali National Park and Preserve
Meeker, Avery Lund
MetadataShow full item record
Tourism is increasing in tundra ecosystems across the world, yet its influence on bird communities and its interaction with other drivers of change are poorly known. To help fill this gap, we incorporate local knowledge with modern avian occupancy and breeding surveys in Denali National Park and Preserve. We measured occupancy rates of 13 bird species in relation to road proximity, traffic volume, and amount of hiking. We found that Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark occupancy rates were reduced by road disturbance while five other generalist shrub-tolerant species increased. Hiking disturbance negatively affected occupancy probabilities of five species, but positively affected occupancy of Fox Sparrow. We also interviewed eleven long-term employees and naturalists with local knowledge of the park. These interviews informed our occupancy and nest study as people mentioned declines in American Golden- Plover, Arctic Tern, Long-tailed Jaeger, and Northern Wheatear over the past five decades. Our occupancy study confirmed these reports as we did not detect a single Arctic Tern, few Northern Wheatears, and found both plovers and Jaegers to be sensitive to hiking disturbance. The effects of hiking and road disturbance on breeding success revealed lower hatching rates at a high 4 recreation area when we combined four shorebird species at two sites with dramatically different recreational activity. Shorebirds (American Golden-Plover, Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel, and Long-tailed Jaeger) nesting at the site with increased human access and hiking activity hatched eggs from 50% fewer territories than did those within the low recreation site. However, fledging of chicks by parents that successfully hatched eggs was high and similar at both sites. The knowledge gained from this study reveals a dramatically different park today than a few decades past. Park managers should seek to balance human recreation with the needs of sensitive tundra breeding birds to further protect species of conservation concern. This may be done by siting new trails in shrub-lands or forest, limiting access to tundra hiking areas during the early breeding season, concentrating human presence on the landscape, improving some trails to reduce nearby social trails, educating tourists about nesting birds, and closing especially important nesting areas to the public.
- Forestry