February 22 2011

10:00 LSB 2320

Russell Greenberg
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC

Life at the Edge: Evolution, Ecology and Conservation of Coastal Marsh Birds


Salt marshes form the ecotone between land and sea along sheltered, temperate shorelines. Coastal marshes provide a highly productive yet harsh environment that has been shaped by Pleistocene cycles in climate and sea level. The combination of bio-physical and historical factors makes coastal marshes a laboratory for studying the processes of ecotypic adaptation. Avian taxa endemic to tidal marshes are mostly found in North America, and the New World sparrows (Emberizidae) have been the most successful group in colonizing and differentiating in these marshes. I will demonstrate the shared divergence in bill morphology and dimorphism, plumage, and life history traits in subspecies and species of sparrows and how these shed light on the processes leading to adaptation to this harsh, productive and island-like habitat. Coastal marshes have been decimated by development and remnant marshes are often mismanaged and face a number of environmental threats from both land and sea. I will discuss the conservation outlook for salt marshes, particularly as they pertain to the threatened endemics.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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