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Bird rookeries as potential accelerants of mangrove caye decline in Belize

Authors: Jordan R. Cissell*, University of Alabama, Michael K. Steinberg, University of Alabama, Lorae' T. Simpson, University of Alabama, Steven W. J. Canty, Smithsonian Marine Station, Julia A. Cherry, University of Alabama, Ilka C. Feller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Topics: Remote Sensing, Environment
Keywords: mangrove, bird, guano, nutrient enrichment
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


To our knowledge, this is the first study connecting nutrient enrichment from bird nesting activity to mangrove decline. Previous studies have documented the negative influence of nutrient over-enrichment on mangrove forests and other coastal ecosystems, and bird guano deposition is a recognized source of nutrient inputs to these ecosystems. However, no prior study has examined the impact of long-term guano deposition on the stability of mangrove cayes. To address this knowledge gap, we have adopted a two-pronged approach integrating remote sensing and sediment analysis. We have selected three pairs of mangrove cayes in Northern, Central, and Southern Belize. Each pair of cayes includes one “bird” caye that has been a bird nesting site since 2000 and one “control” caye that has not. First, we are using high spatial resolution satellite imagery to map and quantify changes in the size and shape of each caye between 2000 and 2019. Second, we are using sediment cores collected in August 2019 to quantify nutrient enrichment on each caye during and before the study period. If long-term guano deposition serves as a substantial driver of mangrove decline, we expect the three bird cayes to demonstrate more substantial decline than the control cayes during the study period. Preliminary results from the remote sensing analysis indicate that bird cayes decreased in size more substantially than did control cayes between 2000 and 2019.

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