JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2020, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (2): 449-459.doi: 10.31497/zrzyxb.20200216

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Foraging-associated hollows of birds facilitate the vegetation resilience in a degraded coastal saltmarsh ecosystem

QIU Dong-dong1, YAN Jia-guo1, ZHANG Shu-yan2, ZUO Dian-long3, LIU Ze-zheng1, WANG Fang-fang1, WANG Qing1, CUI Bao-shan1   

  1. 1. School of Environment, State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China;
    2. Huanghekou Management Station, Shandong Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve Administration, Dongying 257500, Shandong, China;
    3. Shandong Lulong Construction Co. Ltd, Dongying 257000, Shandong, China
  • Received:2018-11-20 Revised:2019-02-22 Online:2020-02-28 Published:2020-02-28

Abstract: Birds are a key constituent of the coastal ecosystems. They have been identified as vital ecosystem engineers that modify both the abiotic and biotic factors through their behavior processes. Understanding the ecosystem engineering effect of birds is of importance to undergo restoration based on ecosystem process in coastal vegetation systems. Field surveys were conducted to investigate the effect mechanisms of the foraging-associated hollows of birds on the vegetation resilience in a degraded coastal saltmarsh vegetation ecosystem, in the Yellow River Delta, Northern China. Our results showed that the foraging-associated hollows of birds could play an important role in changing microtopography, improving edaphic environment and promoting vegetation establishment. Compared with the degraded flat microtopography areas without birds influence, the soil hardness and the soil salinity in the foraging-associated hollows of birds are significantly lower, while the soil moisture content, and the soil carbon and nitrogen nutrition content in the foraging-associated hollows of birds are significantly higher. Additionally, the foraging-associated hollows of birds could function as effective traps to improve the seed retention, seedling establishment and plant survival, which could effectively promote the recovery of Suaeda salsa. Our study highlights that foraging-associated engineering processes of birds modifying the microtopography should be considered as an important implication, for using artificial microtopography to increase the potentials of vegetation restoration in degraded coastal saltmarsh ecosystems.

Key words: coastal wetlands, foraging behavior, facilitation, concave microtopography, birds, vegetation restoration