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Use of an Acoustic Location System to Understand Songbird Response to Vegetation Regeneration on Reclaimed Wellsites in the Boreal Forest of Alberta Open Access


Other title
boreal forest
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Wilson, Scott J.
Supervisor and department
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Boutin, Stan (Biological Sciences)
Betts, Matthew (Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University)
Mathot, Kimberley (Biological Sciences)
McIntosh, Anne (Renewable Resources, Augustana Campus)
Department of Biological Sciences
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
Limited information exists on the recovery of different ecosystem components following reclamation of oil and gas wellsites in the boreal forest of Alberta. Songbird response to wellsite reclamation efforts in the boreal forest was previously unexamined, despite the abundance of wellsites, frequent use of songbirds to assess ecosystem state, and importance of the boreal forest as breeding habitat for songbirds. Determining local scale impacts of small disturbances characteristic of energy sector on songbirds in the boreal forest, and how these impacts change with regeneration requires spatially accurate data on use or avoidance of these features. Conventional methods for surveying songbirds in the boreal vary in their ability to provide these spatially accurate data. Many bird surveys now utilize bioacoustic approaches. Standard approaches to collect biacoustic data do not overcome challenges associated with conventional methods for accurate estimation of bird singing locations. However, certain bioacoustic approaches, including the use of an acoustic location system have potential for collecting data with the spatial accuracy to determine where songbirds sing in relation to small boreal disturbances. The purpose of this thesis was to use an acoustic location system to determine how Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla), and songbird communities as a whole respond to vegetation regeneration on reclaimed wellsites in the deciduous boreal forests of Alberta, as a measure of ecological recovery. Songbird community similarity between reclaimed wellsites and the adjacent forest increased with vegetation regeneration on the wellsite. Understanding this relationship required data on relative use of the wellsite and adjacent forest by the songbird community provided by the acoustic location system, and could not be detected from presence/absence data on songbird assemblages detected only within the wellsite footprint, and from a standard biacoustic survey. I used Ovenbirds as a focal species, as their response to recovery of disturbances in the boreal forest has been studied extensively. Individual Ovenbirds were identified by their songs, and tracked using the acoustic location system. Ovenbirds would sing from reclaimed wellsites and edges more frequently with increasing canopy cover on the wellsite, and less frequently with presence of conspecifics. Current wellsite reclamation practices result in vegetation recovery which facilitates use of wellsites by songbird communities in upland deciduous boreal forests. This thesis demonstrates that an acoustic location system can be used to provide precise spatial locations of multiple individual songbirds concurrently, and can be used as an effective alternative to conventional bird survey methods.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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