Influence of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program wetland practices on winter occupancy of Passerellidae sparrows and avian species richness

Katharine E. Lewis, West Virginia University
Christopher T. Rota, West Virginia University
Christopher M. Lituma, West Virginia University
James T. Anderson, West Virginia University

© 2019 Lewis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) are established as a means of restoring wetland ecosystems and wildlife habitat on private, agricultural land. In West Virginia, USA, ACEP wetlands have never been evaluated to determine how they function as wildlife habitat in comparison to other available wetland habitat in the state. We measured the wintering occupancy of Passerellidae species and apparent avian species richness on ACEP wetlands and a set of reference wetlands located on public land in West Virginia to evaluate if ACEP wetlands are being used similarly by avian species to other available wetland habitat in the state. Apparent avian species richness and the occupancy probability of four Passerellidae species—song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana), and white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis)—did not differ between ACEP and reference sites. In addition to other vegetative and habitat associations for each species, dark-eyed junco occupancy was negatively correlated with wetland size while swamp sparrow occupancy and apparent avian species richness were positively associated with wetland size. These results indicate that ACEP wetlands are providing winter avian habitat as well as another source of wetland habitat in the state. Maintaining and expanding ACEP wetlands in West Virginia would continue to provide wetland systems in areas that are otherwise lacking these habitats.