Ecological Trap Theory and Application to Post-Industrial Sites for Early Successional Wildlife
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Ecological Trap Theory merges Ideal Free Distribution Theory with source-sink dynamics to investigate how animals may make mistakes when establishing territory and the consequences of these mistakes. Ideal free distribution assumes animals evenly distribute themselves across a landscape to maximize individual resource gain. Source-sink dynamics recognizes that habitat within a landscape ranges in quality where prime habitat (source) leads to population growth and emigration while inferior habitat (sink) resulting in population loss. Ecological traps can result from human modifications of the landscape such as artificial ponds or the creation of post-industrial sites. I use the label post-industrial to cover a range of sites including superfund sites, quarries, former factories, railyards: any site having an industrial past that has since been abandoned and, occasionally, restored. Currently, literature pertaining to Ecological Traps identifies types of traps based on severity of the imposed consequences and mechanisms only in regard to cues. I propose expanding the terminology to identify mechanisms creating traps. Expanding terminology will allow more explicit tests and resolution for trap habitat, which are lacking in the field. I will conclude with a (very) preliminary assessment of abandoned post-industrial sites as trap habitat for early successional species using the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) as a model species.
In the preliminary study we surveyed potential singing grounds during the spring of 2016 to identify current breeding habitat. Surveyed habitat consisted of early successional sites, wetlands, abandoned post-industrial sites, and remediated post-industrial sites in northern New Jersey. The ongoing urbanization of New Jersey provides the ideal landscape for investigating the impacts of human altered landscapes in creating trap habitat. Working within a heterogeneous landscape with a range of habitat quality will permit identification of specific mechanisms which can spring the trap.