Importance to other birds
In addition to waterfowl, the interspersed tundra habitats are used by caribou, brown bear, polar bear, foxes, lemmings, ptarmigan, passerines, raptors, and shorebirds. Four loon species (common, arctic, yellow-billed and red-throated) use this arctic wetland assemblage, and more than 30 shorebird species have been recorded. Among the most common breeding shorebirds are red and northern phalaropes, pectoral sandpiper, and dunlin (Derksen et al. 1981). All three jaeger species are present, as are Sabine’s gull and arctic tern. The most common passerine breeder is lapland longspur. In the Brooks Range, foothill areas are important for all scoters, especially black scoters, while riparian associated shorebird species include wandering tattler, semipalmated sandpiper, and spotted sandpiper. The Arctic Coastal Plain is far more important to continental waterbird populations than is the Brooks Range.
The vast majority of the Arctic Coastal Plain is in public ownership. The NPR-A includes over 9,474,000 ha and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, while the 607,000 ha of eastern plain is known as the “1002 Lands” and is managed by the USFWS as part of the Arctic NWR. The Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse area is privately owned and has undergone considerable development. Most of the Brooks Range is in protected status under the National Park System (NPS) and includes Noatak NP, Gates of the Arctic NP and Kobuk Valley NP.
Wetland degradation in these regions is principally from petroleum development of the North Slope, transportation systems (roads, pipelines, airports), and urban development. More than 800 exploratory oil and gas wells have been drilled on the Arctic Coastal Plain. Approximately 8,100 ha of wetlands have been directly degraded through petroleum development and secondary effects, such as flooding and thermal erosion of permafrost has had additional impacts. Petroleum development on the Arctic Coastal Plain results in much more extensive disturbance of wetlands than in more southerly locations, because it requires fill material, over permafrost, to construct infrastructure. This infrastructure, which consists of drill pads, storage areas, transportation facilities, gravel mines, and housing, alters terrain, disrupts natural drainage patterns, and may modify fish and wildlife habitat. The existing infrastructure for oil and gas operations in the Prudhoe Bay – Kuparuk complex is spread over more than 1,287 ha2 of tundra. Nevertheless, the amount of wetland area affected is relatively small. Winter activity will reduce human disturbance impacts on waterbirds; however, certain key areas (e.g., Teshekpuk Lake region) may need refuge status.
Continue Reading >>