Breeding birds and anurans of dynamic coastal wetlands in Green Bay, Lake Michigan

Erin E. Gnass Giese, Robert W. Howe, Amy T. Wolf, Gerald J. Niemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Breeding birds and anurans (frogs and toads) in coastal wetlands of Green Bay, Lake Michigan vary dynamically with changing water levels, habitat type, and geography. We describe species assemblages over a seven-year period (2011–2017) beginning with historic low water levels followed by an increase in average lake level of 0.85 m. In general, species richness and abundance of marsh-obligate species responded positively to increasing water levels, although several species of shallow wetlands (sandhill crane, sedge wren, swamp sparrow, and American toad) showed the opposite trend. Anuran assemblages were more diverse in the middle and upper bay, coinciding with a well-established nutrient gradient from the hypereutrophic lower bay to more oligotrophic waters of the upper bay. Three marsh-obligate bird species (black tern, sandhill crane, and sedge wren) were significantly more abundant in the middle or upper bay while sora, American coot, and common gallinule were more abundant in the eutrophic lower bay. Our findings have several important implications for conservation. Inland wetlands near the coast (including diked wetlands) might play a key ecological role by providing refugia for some species during low water years. However, the importance of shallow coastal wetlands and nearshore gradients of wetland habitat might be overlooked during low water years; when high water returns, these areas can become extremely productive and species-rich.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)950-959
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Anurans
  • Birds
  • Great Lakes coastal wetland
  • Green Bay
  • Water level

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