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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Avian nest success in relation to past grazing regimes in a montane riparian system
Year: 1997
Author(s): Ammon, E. M., Stacey, P. B.
Source Title: Condor
Source Type: Journal
pages: 7-13
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: One possible link between livestock grazing and bird population declines is variation in nest predation rates. To explore this possibility we documented vegetational differences in a montane riparian community subdivided by a fence, one side of which traditionally has been summer-grazed, and the other side rested from grazing for 30 years. We found that ground vegetation was more abundant, willows (Salix spp.) less abundant, and vertical vegetational diversity was lower on the grazed relative to the rested side. Predation rates on real nests were higher on the grazed side compared to the rested side. Artificial nests were placed (1) in mixed conifer vegetation to mimic the most common nest types currently present in the riparian zone, (2) in streamside willows that differed in abundance across the fence, and (3) in old-willow remnants distant from the stream, which were equally abundant on both sides of the fence. All artificial above-ground nests, and ground nests in the old-willow experiment, suffered greater predation rates on the grazed compared to the rested side. Thus, livestock grazing may not only affect availability of nesting substrates for riparian birds by reducing streamside vegetation, but could influence bird populations by facilitating nest predation, possibly by increasing detectability of nests or through changes in predator assemblage.