Florida scrub-jays, habitat restoration, carrying capacity, crowding, habitat fragmentation, demography
Many species naturally occupy discrete habitat patches within a mosaic of habitats that vary in quality. The Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is endemic to Florida scrub, a habitat that is naturally patchy and greatly reduced in area over recent decades owing to development and urbanization. Because of this habitat loss, future management of Florida scrub-jays will focus on smaller, fragmented tracts of land. My study examines such a tract, Lyonia Preserve, southwest Volusia County, FL. This preserve was unoccupied by scrub-jays prior to habitat restoration. The preserve is now frequently managed exclusively for scrub-jays as a habitat island surrounded by development. Management of the preserve includes roller chopping, root raking, timbering, and "oak stripping" where islands of oak patches are left intact while the rest of the area is roller chopped. I investigate what, if any, demographic consequences may be associated with the habitat management and the spatial setting of the preserve. I used population data collected in this area since 1992 to examine population growth and responses to habitat restoration within the preserve and habitat destruction outside the preserve. I mapped territories and measured survival and recruitment of scrub-jays, and dispersal into and out of the study area, for two and a half years. Since restoration, the population has shown logistic growth, with the area supporting higher than average densities of scrub-jay family groups. Observed density of the population and territory size varied between study years. Breeder survival values were positively related to territory size and significantly lower during periods of highest observed density. However, recruitment (yearling production) showed no relationship to territory size. Dispersal to isolated habitat patches was observed; likewise, several failed dispersal events were noted. No immigration into the study area was observed; however these data may be underrepresented since not all scrub-jays in and outside of the preserve were banded, and data collection was limited during the initial colonization period. High densities inside the preserve may therefore be both a result of frequent habitat management in the form of mechanical treatment as well as crowding of individuals due to outside habitat destruction. The results indicate that carrying capacity of habitat for scrub-jays may be raised by frequent, mechanical management; however, if the area is isolated, management may result in high densities and negative demographic consequences, e.g., reduced breeder survival. Negative effects of management may be avoided by subjecting smaller areas to mechanical treatment with increased time between treatments. Land managed for Florida scrub-jays should be contiguous or connected with other scrub habitats so that surplus birds from the managed areas have a refuge and do not contribute to increased densities. Regulatory officials should use caution when allowing for "take" of scrub-jay habitat as the effects may extend beyond the local habitat being destroyed.
Stout, I. Jack
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Lyon, Casey, "Demographic Consequences Of Managing For Florida Scrub-jays (aphelocoma Coerulescens) On An Isolated Preserve." (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3249.