Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) Territory Placement Near Seismic Lines is Influenced by Forest Regeneration and Conspecific Density

Hedwig Lankau
Erin Bayne
Craig Machtans
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The boreal forest of western Canada is being dissected by seismic lines used for oil and gas exploration. The vast amount of edge being created is leading to concerns that core habitat will be reduced for forest interior species for extended periods of time. The Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) is a boreal songbird known to be sensitive to newly created seismic lines
because it does not include newly cut lines within its territory. We examined multiple hypotheses to explain potential mechanisms causing this behavior by mapping Ovenbird territories near lines with varying states of vegetation regeneration. The best model to explain line exclusion behavior included the number of neighboring conspecifics, the amount of bare ground, leaf-litter depth, and canopy closure. Ovenbirds exclude recently cut seismic lines from their territories because of lack of protective cover (lower tree and shrub cover) and because of reduced food resources due to large areas of bare ground. Food reduction and perceived predation risk effects seem to be mitigated once leaf litter (depth and extent of cover) and woody vegetation cover are restored to forest interior levels. However, as conspecific density increases, lines are more likely to be used as landmarks to demarcate
territorial boundaries, even when woody vegetation cover and leaf litter are restored. This behavior can reduce territory density near seismic lines by changing the spatial distribution of territories. Landmark effects are longer lasting than the effects from reduced food or perceived predation risk because canopy height and tree density take >40 years to recover to forest interior levels. Mitigation of seismic line impacts on Ovenbirds should focus on restoring forest cover as quickly as possible after line cutting