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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow science: actions towards recovery through landscape-scale ecosystem restoration

Allison M. Benscoter*, Stephanie S. RomaƱach

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding the ecology of endangered taxa and the factors affecting their population growth and decline is imperative for their recovery. In the southeastern United States, the Everglades wetland ecosystem supports a high diversity of species and communities, including many endemic and imperiled taxa, such as the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS; Ammospiza maritima mirabilis). The Everglades, once a completely connected wetland with a slow-moving sheet flow of water, is now compartmentalized into separated wetland units where water distribution is managed year-round. The endangered CSSS is affected by, and at the crux of, many Everglades ecosystem restoration decisions. The CSSS faces conservation challenges, including limited habitat availability, low population numbers, dispersal limitations, and constraints on suitable breeding conditions owing to wetland water levels. Despite these challenges, ecological knowledge of the factors affecting CSSS population numbers in the context of ongoing ecosystem-level restoration can help inform protection of this endangered bird while restoring the Everglades. Existing research shows target hydroperiods between 90–210 days, a minimum of 90 consecutive dry days during the breeding season, and non-breeding season fires approximately every 5–10 years may aid in CSSS recovery. There are numerous tools and models to support habitat and water management for the CSSS, and the most recent ecosystem-level water operations plan for the Everglades indicates potential for increased CSSS habitat. Here, we provide a review on the ecology of the endangered CSSS, factors affecting population decline, and ecosystem-level restoration actions that may aid in CSSS recovery.