Comparing habitat preferences of a set of waterbird species wintering in coastal wetlands of North Africa: implication for management

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Abstract

Every year, the Coastal wetlands of North Africa support an important wintering waterbird population of many Palearctic and sub-Saharan species of various contrasting habitat requirements. In this study, we describe the habitat use by24 water-obligate species wintering in a coastal wetland of the Northeastern Algeria (the wetland of Lake Tonga), highlighting thereby the ecological mechanisms that support their coexistence and their resources partitioning. The analysis of resource exploitation (Relative frequency, Feinsinger niche breadth, Pianka niche overlap and Ivlev’s electivity indexes) showed that waterbird species inhabiting the lake wetland have several similarities in using the different habitat categories, which lead us to cluster them into 5 guilds (G1: one rails, two grebes and eight ducks; G2: five wading species and one gull; G3: three herons; G4: cormorants, mallards, and on gull; finally, G5: only one species Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis).Almost all the species were specialists in resource utilization patterns (narrow niche breadths, both under 0.3) and therefore, vulnerable to fluctuations in resources, particularly the feeding habitats. Mean niche overlaps for all the pairs of species ranged from 0.05 to 0.68. The overall pattern in the community was higher niche overlaps between the species of a particular guild than those between other species. According to Ivlev’s electivity index, we found that only three microhabitats from seven were the most important for the discussed species, open water body was the most attractive, followed by meadows, muddy areas and floating- leafed vegetation. Similarities on habitat requirements derived from our region can provide important and optimal wetland management at multi-species assemblage level for this wetland and similar area around the African coast.

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Ekológia (Bratislava)

The Journal of Institute of Landscape Ecology of Slovak Academy of Sciences

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