Wildlife community data in black ash wetlands



Black ash wetlands cover approximately 1.2 million ha of wetland forest in the western Great Lakes region, providing critical habitat for wildlife. The future of these wetlands is critically threatened by a variety of factors, including Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis; EAB), which has been eliminating native populations of otherwise healthy ash throughout the Great Lakes Region since it was discovered in 2002. To quantify the potential impacts of tree mortality from EAB on wildlife communities, we measured seasonal bird, mammal, and amphibian diversity in black ash wetlands using a dual approach: 1) documenting bird and amphibian species across 27 mature reference black ash wetlands in northern Minnesota, USA and 2) assessing how bird, mammal, and amphibian communities respond to experimental manipulations of black ash forests that emulate mortality and management strategies related to the potential impact of EAB. A total of 85 wildlife species were recorded for the entire study including 57 bird species, 5 amphibian species, and 23 mammal species. Results from the reference sites show that hydrologic regime, percentage of ash canopy cover, and understory cover were important habitat characteristics for bird and amphibian communities. Results from the experimental sites show there may be short-term increases in species richness for mammal and bird communities associated with changes in forest structure due to ash mortality; however, anticipated changes resulting from EAB-caused mortality, particularly conversion of these sites to non-forested wetlands, will lead to significant shifts in bird and mammal community composition. Loss of ash may cause declines in forest-dependent species and increases in open-canopy and wetland-associated species. Additionally, while increased ponding extent and longer hydroperiods may be beneficial for some amphibian species, the loss of the forest canopy will result in an overall decrease in bird diversity and reduce forest connectivity for all species. Our results indicate the potential for significant large-scale impacts of black ash mortality on forest-associated wildlife. Management strategies that focus on establishing alternative trees species to maintain long-term forest cover and structural complexity in these wetlands will help maintain and conserve wildlife diversity.

Data collected on amphibian, bird, and mammal communities in black ash wetlands in northern Minnesota, USA.

Funding information
Sponsorship: Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
Date made availableOct 1 2021
PublisherData Repository for the University of Minnesota
Date of data productionSep 20 2016 - Oct 20 2018

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