Northern Brazil

Because shorebirds don’t only spend their time in Delaware Bay, shorebird scientists must study them throughout the Atlantic Flyway to get the best understanding of their unique ecology. The team finished their 2-year grant creating detailed shorebird habitat maps in the states of Maranhão and Pará, Brazil. This project set the foundation for conservation planning and action for decades to come at a shorebird wintering site of hemispheric importance that has received little conservation and research attention with regard to shorebirds thus far.

By creating detailed shorebird habitat maps, this project set the foundation for conservation planning and action for decades to come at a shorebird wintering site of hemispheric importance that has received little conservation and research attention with regard to shorebirds.  Populations of a broad suite of shorebird species of conservation concern have declined dramatically in this region in the last 30 years and there is no clear understanding of the drivers of declines.  This group of species represents diversity of migratory and ecological strategies that have one aspect in common – wintering sites in Brazilian estuaries spanning the states of Maranhão and Pará.  This area corresponds with the shorebird survey area designated “Brazil, North-Central” in Morrison and Ross (1989) and includes the Reentrâncias Maranhenses which is a RAMSAR site and western hemisphere shorebird site of hemispheric importance.

Our project thoroughly tested for the role of one hypothesized driver of declines – reduced habitat availability.  We tested this hypothesis by quantifying and mapping habitat availability at two points in time:  now and when shorebird populations were at their highest documented levels in the 1980’s.

While discovering the source of ongoing declines is critical, this project was also designed to set the stage for proactive conservation planning that will mitigate future threats by generating detailed habitat maps for eight shorebird species and generating maps of shrimp farm development likelihood.  Shrimp farming presents one of the greatest potential threats to the estuarine ecosystems that ten of thousands of western hemisphere shorebirds depend upon for wintering habitat.

This project was a collaboration with Brazilian agency staff and scientists and was designed to meet and support objectives identified in Brazil’s Migratory Shorebird Conservation Plan, the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture Shorebird Business Plan and the Red Knot Conservation Plan for the Western Hemisphere.  These objectives are focused on mapping critical habitat and developing land use planning instruments within critical habitat areas for the conservation of migratory shorebirds.

The match-funded component of this project restored 1.4 miles of horseshoe crab spawning beaches that were seriously degraded when Hurricane Sandy scoured sand from them.  This work benefited the same population of red knots, ruddy turnstones, sanderling and semipalmated sandpipers that winter at the Brazil project area as demonstrated through flag resights and geolocator results.

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