Wildlife Monitoring and Research

The "Wildlife Recovery in the Yuma East Wetlands" research was conducted during 2007-2008 to determine the effect of riparian and wetland habitat restoration on the recovery of bird, invertebrate, herpetofauna and mammal communities. Many restoration projects have goals of recovering wildlife communities, however few evaluate whether these goals have been met. FPC believes in a holistic approach to habitat restoration and evaluating wildlife recovery can help establish success criteria for habitat restoration, help determine if restoration techniques are sufficient to address the needs of the wildlife community, and if necessary, can help redefine restoration strategies. In order to conduct this research, FPC secured over $180,000 from the Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF).

The habitats evaluated included: mature and immature restored riparian and mature restored wetland habitats in the Yuma East Wetlands (YEW) and Yuma West Wetlands (YWW). Data collected from the restored sites was compared to data collected at reference habitats in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge (BWRNWR) and un-restored control riparian and wetland habitats in the Yuma East Wetlands. The objective of this study was to determine if restored habitats were similar in avifaunal, invertebrate, mammalian and herpetofaunal richness and abundance to the reference habitats. Also, the relationship between wildlife community characteristics and habitat characteristics such as total vegetation volume and foliar height diversity were compared.

This study provided a good preliminary baseline of the distribution of all wildlife species and richness and abundance of wildlife communities, including invertebrates, avifauna, mammalian and herpetofaunal species in the Yuma East and West Wetlands. The data showed that both invertebrate and avifaunal species richness and relative abundance at restored sites were not significantly different from control sites and were significantly different to reference sites. Despite this finding the presence and use of the restored habitat by species of concern, including Yuma clapper rail, willow flycatchers, yellow billed cuckoos and Bell’s vireos indicates that restored habitats are beginning to recover the wildlife communities. The mammal data showed that all sites were significantly different for richness and abundance. Control riparian sites had 15 times higher abundance than restored sites, and richness ranged between 0-4 species for all sites. Reference wetland sites had 4 times higher mammal abundance and 1.4 times higher richness than restored wetland sites. The herpetofaunal data showed that control and mature restored riparian sites had twice as high abundance than the agriculture, immature restored and reference riparian sites. Mammal species richness was also highest in the mature restored sites, however not significantly different than the control sites. Control wetland sites had the highest average relative abundance and species richness, however the abundance ranged from 0-2 species and richness ranged from 0-1 species.