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Lamb, Juliet



Managing vegetation to restore tern nesting habitat in the Gulf of Maine

Contact:; Ag Engineering Annex


National Audubon Society
Friends of Maine Seabird Islands
Project Puffin

Faculty Advisor:

Curt Griffin

Project abstract:

Since the late 1800s, when they were nearly eradicated from the Gulf of Maine, populations of Common, Arctic, and Roseate terns have been recovering rapidly thanks to protection and restoration initiatives. However, human development and gull predation have left only a small fraction of historical nesting islands open for tern colonies. These islands are rapidly losing available tern habitat—that is, open or sparsely vegetated areas—due to the rampant growth of invasive plants such as pasture grasses and hedge bindweed. In order to accommodate recovering populations, managers have attempted to keep existing habitat open and create new habitat. Unfortunately, many of the plant species involved have extremely deep and persistent root structures, and the seed banks for annual plants are tenacious. Though various methods of vegetation control have been used across the region, none have been systematically tested to determine their ability to provide high-quality nesting habitat throughout the breeding season.

My project will compare several management techniques, including slow-burning, restoration of native fescues, and soil removal. By measuring vegetation growth throughout the nesting season across treated, untreated, and open habitat, I can ascertain whether these techniques are replicating preferred conditions for nesting terns. I will also study chick growth, nest success, predation rates, and productivity of tern nests in the treated areas and compare these to island-wide averages. Finally, I will assess each technique for cost-effectiveness, duration, and landscape applicability, providing colony managers with the information they need to determine whether these tools will be useful for them.

Page updated: October 13, 2011