Hecht Anne

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  • Article
    Using a Bayesian network to understand the importance of coastal storms and undeveloped landscapes for the creation and maintenance of early successional habitat
    (Public Library of Science, 2019-07-25) Zeigler, Sara L. ; Gutierrez, Benjamin T. ; Sturdivant, Emily ; Catlin, Daniel H. ; Fraser, James D. ; Hecht, Anne ; Karpanty, Sarah M. ; Plant, Nathaniel G. ; Thieler, E. Robert
    Coastal storms have consequences for human lives and infrastructure but also create important early successional habitats for myriad species. For example, storm-induced overwash creates nesting habitat for shorebirds like piping plovers (Charadrius melodus). We examined how piping plover habitat extent and location changed on barrier islands in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia after Hurricane Sandy made landfall following the 2012 breeding season. We modeled nesting habitat using a nest presence/absence dataset that included characterizations of coastal morphology and vegetation. Using a Bayesian network, we predicted nesting habitat for each study site for the years 2010/2011, 2012, and 2014/2015 based on remotely sensed spatial datasets (e.g., lidar, orthophotos). We found that Hurricane Sandy increased piping plover habitat by 9 to 300% at 4 of 5 study sites but that one site saw a decrease in habitat by 27%. The amount, location, and longevity of new habitat appeared to be influenced by the level of human development at each site. At three of the five sites, the amount of habitat created and the time new habitat persisted were inversely related to the amount of development. Furthermore, the proportion of new habitat created in high-quality overwash was inversely related to the level of development on study areas, from 17% of all new habitat in overwash at one of the most densely developed sites to 80% of all new habitat at an undeveloped site. We also show that piping plovers exploited new habitat after the storm, with 14–57% of all nests located in newly created habitat in the 2013 breeding season. Our results quantify the importance of storms in creating and maintaining coastal habitats for beach-nesting species like piping plovers, and these results suggest a negative correlation between human development and beneficial ecological impacts of these natural disturbances.
  • Article
    Piping plovers demonstrate regional differences in nesting habitat selection patterns along the U. S. Atlantic coast
    (Ecological Society of America, 2021-03-11) Zeigler, Sara L. ; Gutierrez, Benjamin T. ; Hecht, Anne ; Plant, Nathaniel G. ; Sturdivant, Emily
    Habitat studies that encompass a large portion of a species’ geographic distribution can explain characteristics that are either consistent or variable, further informing inference from more localized studies and improving management successes throughout the range. We identified landscape characteristics at Piping Plover nests at 21 sites distributed from Massachusetts to North Carolina and compared habitat selection patterns among the three designated U.S. recovery units (New England, New York–New Jersey, and Southern). Geomorphic setting, substrate type, and vegetation type and density were determined in situ at 928 Piping Plover nests (hereafter, used resource units) and 641 random points (available resource units). Elevation, beach width, Euclidean distance to ocean shoreline, and least-cost path distance to low-energy shorelines with moist substrates (commonly used as foraging habitat) were associated with used and available resource units using remotely sensed spatial data. We evaluated multivariate differences in habitat selection patterns by comparing recovery unit-specific Bayesian networks. We then further explored individual variables that drove disparities among Bayesian networks using resource selection ratios for categorical variables and Welch’s unequal variances t-tests for continuous variables. We found that relationships among variables and their connections to habitat selection were similar among recovery units, as seen in commonalities in Bayesian network structures. Furthermore, nesting Piping Plovers consistently selected mixed sand and shell, gravel, or cobble substrates as well as areas with sparse or no vegetation, irrespective of recovery unit. However, we observed significant differences among recovery units in the elevations, distances to ocean, and distances to low-energy shorelines of used resource units. Birds also exhibited increased selectivity for overwash habitats and for areas with access to low-energy shorelines along a latitudinal gradient from north to south. These results have important implications for conservation and management, including assessment of shoreline stabilization and habitat restoration planning as well as forecasting effects of climate change.