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Louisiana mottled duck telemetry summer survival data 2018-2020 and water level data from Hurricane Laura surge

Citation

Ringelman, Kevin et al. (2022), Louisiana mottled duck telemetry summer survival data 2018-2020 and water level data from Hurricane Laura surge, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0zpc866z7

Abstract

Tropical cyclones are the most powerful storms on earth, causing catastrophic damage to human lives and infrastructure. Hurricanes also cause wildlife mortality when they make landfall, but the severity of these effects is difficult to quantify because data collection is either logistically impossible or deprioritized in the wake of human tragedy. On 27 August 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwestern Louisiana with maximum sustained winds of 241 kph (150 mph), making it one of the most powerful storms to strike the mainland United States. Hurricane Laura passed directly over the core breeding range of the Western Gulf Coast population of Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula), during a time when many adult birds were undergoing a simultaneous wing feather molt and were flightless. We used GPS-GSM telemetry data to evaluate survival rates of adult female Mottled Ducks in late summer 2020 (bracketing 27 August by one month on either side) relative to the same period in 2018 and 2019. Mortality was lower in 2018 (12 out of 29; 41%) and 2019 (8 out of 28; 29%) than in 2020 (12 out of 18; 67%), and 7 out of 12 mortalities documented in 2020 occurred when Hurricane Laura made landfall. Survival analyses in Program MARK confirmed lower survival probability in 2020, but there was overlap in 85% confidence intervals in all years. This single storm resulted in the death of ~40% of all marked birds in our sample, suggesting that hurricanes have the potential to influence population demographics. In addition, Hurricane Laura resulted in widespread habitat loss and degradation that has reduced available nesting habitat in 2021, and possibly for years to come. The acute and chronic effects of hurricanes may exacerbate Mottled Duck population declines, which may worsen in the face of increasingly frequent and more severe tropical storms.

Funding

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Award: PO2000235026

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Award: F16AC00901

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: LAB94294

U.S. Geological Survey, Award: G19AC00290