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Researchers Study Mottled Ducks in Western Gulf Coast

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NFWF Grant from Shell Marine and NOAA Fund Mottled Duck Conservation

Pair of Mottled Ducks- Marc Epstein

LAFAYETTE, La., April 10, 2008 – Partners of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV) are conducting research on mottled duck survival and habitat use along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Ducks Unlimited and other conservation partners of the GCJV will use information from the study to refine habitat conservation and management strategies for enhancing the growth of mottled duck populations.

“Our success at managing for sustainable and harvestable populations of waterfowl depends greatly on the availability of scientific information to fully inform and support conservation efforts,” said Mike Brasher the GCJV biological team leader. “Unfortunately, we currently lack important information about mottled ducks. This study is designed to fill in some of those knowledge gaps.”

The three-year study of mottled duck seasonal survival, habitat use, and movements began in July 2007. The study is a collaborative effort among GGJV partners led by researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) Agricultural Center (AgCenter) and Texas A&M University - Kingsville (TAMUK). The scope of the project includes the entire mottled duck range of coastal Texas and Louisiana.

Because they are non-migratory and must satisfy their annual resource needs from a small geographic range, mottled ducks are unique waterfowl. They are the primary breeding waterfowl of the Western Gulf Coast, and their range and habitats overlap an imperiled coastal ecosystem.

“Without knowing precisely which habitats are critical to mottled ducks and how their survival rates vary throughout the year, it is difficult to make sound management decisions. Hence the need for this study,” Brasher said.

Loss of critical habitat likely contributes to recent observed population declines, but the relative importance of different habitats for mottled ducks remains uncertain. Researchers will gather data to determine specific habitat needs and use patterns. Managers will then use the data to effectively prioritize conservation of habitats for mottled ducks.

“Reproduction and molt are stressful periods for waterfowl, and we suspect females experience greater mortality during these times. However, we lack reliable estimates of mottled duck mortality during different periods of the annual cycle. Ideally, this study will provide us with those estimates,” Brasher said.

Ducks Unlimited received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) funded by Shell Marine and the NOAA Restoration Center to help support this study and conserve coastal marsh habitats in southwest Louisiana.

The Ceasar-Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, TAMUK, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are providing additional support for the research.

The habitat delivery component of the project, slated for completion by June 2009, will lead to the enhancement of over 780 acres of coastal marsh in southwest Louisiana. Ducks Unlimited and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, along with the NOAA Restoration Center and Shell Marine via the NFWF grant, provide support for the habitat delivery component.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with over 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

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Andi Cooper      601-206-5463      acooper@ducks.org

For more information on the Gulf Coastal Prairie go to: http://www.ducks.org/conservation/initiative28.aspx

For an interactive animation of Louisiana coastal wetland loss go to:
http://www.nola.com/speced/lastchance/multimedia/flash.ssf?flashlandloss1.swf

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Related:  louisianatexas

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