Keith Stelling – 3.0 Failure to consider Scientific Research
3.0 Failure to consider body of scientific research
The EBR stipulates that scientific considerations must be part of decision-making in the ministry. Yet the ministry appears to have overlooked the most salient science related to the three threatened species, the Eastern Meadowlark, the Bobolink, and the Whip-poor-will which are all experiencing critical declines resulting from loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. (7)
In May, 2011, the Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella Magna) was designated as “threatened”. This is the category reserved for a wildlife species that is facing imminent extirpation or extinction if limiting factors are not reversed. Meadowlarks have experienced an overall decline of 71% from 1970 to 2009. They prefer weedy, older hayfields and abandoned grasslands and the loss of this habitat is the major factor in their decline.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) has also acquired COSEWIC’s “threatened” status. “Over 25% of the global population of this grassland bird species breeds in Canada. . . .”. (COSEWIC 2012) Habitat loss and fragmentation are the main reason for its demise. The Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) has experienced long term and short term population declines (30% over the last 10 years), largely due to habitat loss and degradation. It is also listed as “threatened” by COSEWIC.(10)
3.1 Numbers decline when habitat is fragmented or reduced
“Habitat fragmentation not only reduces the habitat area of a species and of its food and nesting resources, but it also impedes access of the species or its food resources to habitat patches surrounded by the barriers creating the fragmentation (e.g., non-habitat). Habitat patches that are smaller than a certain size threshold or isolated by a certain distance threshold to other habitat patches are no longer able to support the species. Habitat fragmentation results in the reduction of
a net larger habitat area than can be measured by summing the remaining, apparent habitat patches (Wilcox and Murphy 1985, Saunders et al. 1991, Hall et al. 1997)”.(8)
The numbers of a species are likely to decline if its habitat is reduced; fragmentation effects imply that the value of the remaining habitat also is diminished”. (Johnson 2001) (9)
3.2 Reproductive success is lower in small habitat fragments
The loss caused by reduction of habitat and fragmentation is even more significant because of the special requirements of the species. Consider the Bobolink: Reproductive success is reportedly lower in small habitat fragments (Kuehl and Clark, 2002; Winter et al., 2004).
3.3 Bobolink sensitivities to area, habitat size, edge habitat and nest predation
The Bobolink is area sensitive. (Johnson, 2001). “The Bobolink is sensitive to habitat size (Fletcher and Korford, 2003); (Murphy, 2003); (Bollinger and Gavin, 2004); (Horn and Korford, 2006); (Renfrew and Ribic, 2008). Dr. Shawn Smallwood. “Comment on City of Elk Grove Sphere of Influence EIR”. 21 November 2011
“Habitat Fragmentation Effects on Birds in Grasslands and Wetlands”,
Douglas Johnson (11) A number of grassland birds including Bobolink and eastern Meadowlark are sensitive to noise with
decrease in numbers and breeding patches (Forman et al. 2002). (See section 4.3 below “Noise from wind turbines). The Bobolink responds negatively to the presence of edges separating its habitat, particularly forest edges (Helzer and Jelinski, 1999; Fletcher, 2003)”.
“Habitat fragmentation exacerbates the problem of habitat loss for grassland and wetland birds. Remaining patches of grasslands and wetlands may be too small, too isolated, and too influenced by edge effects to maintain viable populations of some breeding birds.” 10
The COSEWIC monograph on the Bobolink notes: “Throughout its breeding range, the main effect of habitat fragmentation is an increase in nest predation by various avian and terrestrial species (Johnson and Temple, 1990); (Lavallée, 1998); (Van Damme, 1999); (Renfrew and Ribic, 2003); (Bollinger and Gavin, 2004); (Renfrew et al., 2005)”.
“Such habitat specificity makes their [grassland birds] populations vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation at each stage of their annual life cycle. Not surprisingly, the primary cause of declines of grassland birds is related to declines in habitat supply and quality. . . (McCracken, 2005)”