Biodiv Sci ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (3): 351-360.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020189

• Original Papers: Animal Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Community composition and behavioral differences of migrating shorebirds between two habitats within a Suaeda salsa saltmarsh-mudflat wetland mosaics

Jing Zhang1, Yu Bai1, Ziqiang Huang1, Zhengwang Zhang2, Donglai Li1,*()   

  1. 1. College of Life Sciences, Liaoning University, Shenyang 110036
    2. Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering of the Ministry of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
  • Received:2020-05-07 Accepted:2020-08-15 Online:2021-03-20 Published:2020-09-20
  • Contact: Donglai Li


Aims: The Suaeda salsa saltmarsh is a typical estuarine wetland along the coast of the Yellow Sea and provides an important stopover habitat for migratory waterbirds. From 2017 to 2019, we conducted a bird count and behavioral observation at Liaohekou National Nature Reserve to examine the community composition and behavioral differences of shorebirds in adjacent S. salsa saltmarsh and mudflat tideland habitats.
Methods: In adjacent S. salsa saltmarsh and mudflat tideland habitats, we counted and comparied the difference of shorebird community composition and behavior during low tide period.
Results: A total of 6,348 birds comprising 4 families and 28 species were recorded. Species richness was higher in the mudflat than S. salsa saltmarsh in the spring and autumn. Moreover, we found there were significant differences in shorebird community composition between the two habitats—theS. salsa saltmarsh was used more by large-bodied shorebirds (e.g., Numenius madagascariensis, N. arquata, Pluvialis squatarola) while the adjacent mudflat was used more often by small birds (e.g., Charadrius alexandrinus and Calidris alpina). These patterns indicated that the S. salsa saltmarsh has a distinct ecological function for the community formation and maintenance of species diversity of migratory shorebirds. In addition, behavioral data showed that foraging (58.71%-93.26%) was a dominant behavior of shorebirds for both habitats, but a significantly higher percentage of roosting behavior was found in the S. salsa saltmarsh, particularly during the spring stopover stage.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that the saltmarsh is an important roosting habitat for many shorebirds, and this function cannot be replaced by the adjacent intertidal mudflat. While the general biodiversity of the saltmarsh was lower than that of the mudflat, the large proportion of shared species-composition between the two habitats imply that these two habitats are complementary. As a unique combination for a wetland landscape, the S. salsa saltmarsh and mudflat play irreplaceable roles for providing stopover habitat and maintaining species diversity of shorebirds during migration.

Key words: Suaeda salsa saltmarsh, Numenius madagascariensis, habitat use, shorebirds, Liaohe Estuary wetland