Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Effects of pathways within Grand Teton National Park on avian abundance, distribution, diversity, and productivity of focal species

September 2011 - November 2011


Participating Agencies

  • Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (RM-CESU)
  • National Park Service

Landbirds are an integral component of park ecosystems and serve a wide range of ecological roles from pollinating plants to controlling insect populations. Proposed construction of a bicycle pathway through portions of Grand Teton National Park beginning in spring/summer 2008 may pose a threat to landbird abundance, diversity, productivity, and/or breeding behavior, as numerous migratory landbird species breed within the lower elevation shrub steppe and forest habitat through which the pahtway will traverse. Human-induced changes to natural landscapes have become ubiquitous, resulting in exposure of wildlife populations to novel stressors (Munns 2006). While it is clear that changes such as habitat loss can directly impact wildlife species, less clear is the extent to which human presence itself functions as a disturbance that influences wildlife behaviors with important finess consequences. Animals clearly respond to perceived risk of predation by natural predators via, for example, fleeing, or altering foraging and/or breeding habitat election (Marzluff 1988, Hakkarainen et al. 2001, Frid and Dill 2002, Blumstein 2006, Borkowski et al. 2006, Fontaine and Martin 2006). Such responses can alter access to important resources, energy budgets, and therefore attributes such as body condition (Bechet et al. 2004) with potential impacts to survival and reproductive output. Of critical importance to the management of wildlife populations is therefore to derermine 1) whether wildlife species perceive human presence as predation risk, 2) how individuals respond to suck risk, and 3) how such responses influence fitness consequences and therefore population dynamics and community structure. Birds are known to respond behaviorally to perceived predation risk (e.g., Marzluff 1988, Hakkarainen et al. 2001, Fontaine and Marin 2006, Chalfoun and Martin, unpublished data), and may therefore respond similarly to human disturbance. This project will therefore evaluate the potential impacts of pathway development and use on breeding landbird species.