A large number of shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterfowl are being reported in the Great Salt Lake. In the fall of 2018, biologists Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP) estimated more than 3.2 million ear grubs (over 85 percent) North American population) were present in the lake. In July of 2020, GSLEP biologists counted 122,850 Wilsons phalarops (over eight percent) North American breeding population)
Established with the aim of managing and conserving the bird and aquatic communities of the Great Salt Lake, GSLEP has monitored migratory shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterfowl at specific locations within the lake since 1997. The specific locations surveyed by GSLEP represent particular areas. Large numbers of birds, and they are mainly found in Bear River, Farmington and Ogden Bay. The resulting dataset—collected by GSLEP biologists and volunteers—is one of the longest annual count datasets for wetland sites in the western United States.
This unique dataset offers an opportunity to go beyond the impressively large numbers to understand how bird numbers have changed in surveyed areas over time. Audubon entered into a collaborative agreement with GSLEP to analyze changes in count (trend) for 30 species and 7 species groups and perform calculations related to water conditions. This post describes the trends observed from 1997 – 2017.
Almost without exception, the total number of birds counted in the areas surveyed by the GSLEP remained unchanged or during the spring and fall of the 37 species and groups analyzed. It is important to note that these trends do not apply to the Great Salt Lake as a whole – only the areas surveyed by GSLEP. Some habitats, such as the shorebird playa habitat, may be underrepresented in the areas surveyed. Additional work is needed to understand why the count was stable or increased, as these trends do not necessarily indicate that housing conditions were stable or improving in the areas surveyed.
regionally throughout western North America, assessment This shows that surface water resources are depleting. With deteriorating regional conditions, birds may be pushed to the areas surveyed in the Great Salt Lake because they do not have room to move. Evaluating the impact of regional conditions on bird use of the areas surveyed will require coordinated monitoring of birds and habitats throughout the region. For this reason, Audubon strongly supports Recently introduced federal law to conduct regional, scientific assessment of brackish lakes. Steady and positive trends as well as bird numbers in the Great Salt Lake suggest that the areas surveyed continue to provide important migratory habitats that must be protected to support dominant species. However, clear objective setting and management plans for shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterfowl will be critical to securing habitat and food sources for the future.
While the total numbers were mostly stable or increasing, the analysis revealed specific regions where the number of species or groups declined. For example, Franklin’s gulls and wilts showed declining numbers in Farmington and some areas within Ogden Bay. Areas of decline can become a focus of conservation and management actions and help ensure that surveyed areas continue to support birds and their habitats.
Maintaining the capacity of the Great Salt Lake and its associated wetlands to support birds and their habitats is imperative. The Great Salt Lake is so important to the breeding and migration of shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterfowl that each of its five bays is individually identified as one. Global Important Bird Area, an area important for the international conservation of bird populations. Utah’s Governor Cox has declared 2021 the “Year of the Shorebird” 30. in recognition ofth lake anniversary Designation as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Audubons salty lakes The program also considers the Great Salt Lake to be important. network of lakes and associated wetlands that provide habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterfowl in the otherwise dry Great Basin landscape.
Like other brackish lakes around the world, upstream water diversion, drought, and climate change have affected and will continue to affect the water supply needed for the Great Salt Lake and associated wetlands and other services for birds, such as brine shrimp. Harvesting and entertainment. The importance of flow to the Great Salt Lake has been recognized, and Efforts are underway to identify, evaluate and implement studies, programs and policies to maintain flow in the lake..
Audubon will continue to work with collaborators, including GSLEP, to characterize the factors in the Great Salt Lake and regionally affecting birds and their habitat in the lake. It is through these efforts that informed conservation and management actions can maintain the Great Salt Lake’s unprecedented bird numbers and its special status within the region, across the hemisphere, and within the global conservation community.
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