Jones Kpakpa Quartey1, 2, Alfred Ali Nuoh2 & Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu1, 2.
1Department of Animal Biology and Conservation Science, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana.
2Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana.
Ideally, shorebirds would prefer to forage and roost in the absence of any form of disturbance; but natural and anthropogenic factors suggest otherwise. Global human population increase, especially within coastal settings, has caused influx of humans and human-related activities along coastal beaches and wetlands which provide refuge for shorebirds at different times of the year. For a community like Esiama in Ghana, whose residents depend on the beach for their livelihoods, it is important to examine how such pressures are being deployed along the beach and how sanderlings are able to accommodate these. We documented human activities, sanderling populations and prey distribution along the beach monthly between JanuaryDecember 2016 and measured the Minimal Approach Distance (MAD), tolerated by sanderlings. Human-related activities accounted for 96% of all disturbances observed and comprised mainly fishing activities (69%), shellfish harvesting (14%) and passers-by (12%). The mean encounter rate of fishing activity was 0.5±0.3 activity/km with an average human density of 21±11 individuals/activity. The spatial distribution of sanderlings was related to distribution of prey (p<0.05) but not to human densities (p > 0.05), however, sanderlings avoided areas along the beach with high human densities. The mean MAD between sanderlings and the different disturbances depended on the type of disturbance (p < 0.05). Sanderlings could tolerate approaching humans up to a distance of 23.53±7.37m beyond which they showed signs of being disturbed. Resting sanderlings were more sensitive to humans than foraging individuals (p = 0.008). Multiple linear regression of all possible factors indicated that the MAD for sanderlings to the approach of humans depended on flock size and beach width for foraging sanderlings (R2 = 0.5, p = 0.0003, AIC = 150.79, df = 5) but flock size and food abundance for resting sanderlings (R2 = 0.5, p = 0.001, AIC = 140.72, df = 4)
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