Cause-Effect Monitoring Migratory Landbirds at Local Scales, Oil Sands Region

Cause-Effect Monitoring Data - Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) Activity

Environment and Climate Change Canada in 2014-2015 assessed how and why boreal songbirds respond to Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) activity in peatland habitats within the Athabasca oil sands area. Development features associated with SAGD activity include high density exploratory seismic lines, winter roads, well pads, pipelines, permanent roads, and industrial facilities. This work examines how bird species respond to different types and densities of development features at a SAGD project scale. Peatland habitats are prominent in the oil sands area (approximately 40% of the total area) but there is little information about how birds respond to oil sands development features in this habitat type.

Data are available for eleven, 25-hectare sites surveyed in 2014-2015. Survey sites were located in treed bog habitat across a gradient of SAGD disturbance, ranging from low to high and where disturbance was defined as physical alteration of vegetation (habitat). Sites were visited multiple times (6 visits in 2014 and 8 visits in 2015) during the breeding season from early-May to early-July to record detections for each individual bird within the study site. The data summarizes the number of individuals of each species detected within the 25 hectare survey grids during each visit.

In 2014, a total of 62 species were detected within the survey grids, with 38 species showing consistent breeding season occupancy (detection on at least 3 visits during the breeding season). In 2015, a total of 71 species were detected within the survey grids, with 39 species showing consistent breeding season occupancy. Analyses are currently underway to identify which habitat and disturbance features relate to occupancy and habitat use patterns for individual species within the study area. While baseline monitoring across the region will assess large-scale population trends, this study will provide detailed understanding of which SAGD disturbance feature types and densities induce positive, negative or neutral responses for individual species and can improve our understanding of the patterns observed in regional trend monitoring data.



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