Cattle grazing and avian communities of the St. Lawrence River Islands
MetadataShow full item record
CitationBélanger, L., & Picard, M. (1999). Cattle grazing and avian communities of the St. Lawrence River Islands. Journal of Range Management, 52(4), 332-338.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractThree hundred islands are found along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Among these islands, over 5,000 ha are used for agricultural purposes and 32% of this total is devoted to communal pasture, a traditional practice in this part of the river. In 1993 and 1994, we compared the avian communities of 500 ha natural spring flooded prairie islands subjected to different degrees of grazing pressure. Three islands were divided into 12 sectors, in which 108 sample plots of 0.5 ha were selected. Results show that the degree of visual obstruction by herbaceous vegetation and the percentage of shrub cover were higher on ungrazed and on moderately grazed prairie (< 1 cow/ha/year) as compared with intensively grazed prairie (> 1 cow/ha/year). More than 1,650 observations of passerines were made and 13 species were identified. The Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), Red-winged Blackbird (Agelais phoeniceus), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) were the 4 most abundant species, accounting for over 80% of all birds counted. Ungrazed and moderately grazed prairie contained 6 times more birds than intensively grazed prairie (10.4 birds/ha and 11.7 birds/ha vs 1.6 birds/ha). We also recorded 167 and 113 dabbling duck (anatinae) nests in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Moderately grazed and ungrazed prairies had a nest density nearly 10 times higher than that of intensively grazed prairie (0.50 +/- 0.01 and 0.30 +/- 0.01 nest/ha vs 0.05 +/- 0.01 nest/ha). Our study shows that grazing pressure on prairies of the studied islands largely determined the type of bird species present. However, prairie subjected to excessive grazing pressure is not suitable for waterfowl nesting. Various recommendations are provided for integrated management of wildlife and agriculture on the St. Lawrence River communal pasture islands.