PSU’s Study of Canada Warblers Receives National Accolades

October 31st, 2008 by Adam

The Canada Warbler is a bird native to northern New England but its population has been in decline for 40 years. Plymouth State University Biology Professor Leonard Reitsma and a research team including four PSU graduate students and nearly 10 undergraduates launched a study to find out why the species is having difficulty thriving.

Reitsma is conducting the six-plus year population study at the Canaan, N.H. town forest and the adjacent Bear Pond Natural Area, and said the findings indicate this population of Canada Warblers is reproducing very well in both red maple swamp and early-succession forests.

“The findings demonstrate that suitable habitats for the species can be created through specific harvest strategies,” said Reitsma. “Such timber management strategies may help to reverse the significant decline the species has experienced over the past 40 years in the northeastern United States.

“This study corroborates the benefits of age and experience to reproductive performance,” Reitsma said. “The results suggest that both red maple swamps and post-harvest forests with thick sub canopy vegetation and emergent trees provide high quality habitat for breeding Canada Warblers.”

Reitsma’s most recent research papers are being published this October in the premier bird research journal in North America, Auk, and in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. A third was published in January in Forest Ecology and Management. He is co-author with three graduate students at PSU on these papers. The papers represent the culmination of the first five years of work, and Reitsma says the research is evolving

“This project is ongoing and continues to involve PSU students,” Reitsma said. “One particularly satisfying aspect of this work is we are conducting research on land I helped conserve in my role as a member of the Canaan Conservation Commission. Our commission is now constructing an interpretive center and this research is likely to factor prominently in the environmental education at the center.”

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