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Recovery of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow through Restoration of the Everglades Ecosystem

Julie L. Lockwood

Department of Environmental Studies, Natural Sciences II, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064;

Katherine H. Fenn

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 569 Dabney Hall, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996;


The Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) has been listed as federally endangered since 1967. Its small population size and unique ecology have perpetuated conservation concern. The ultimate factor in this subspecies’ decline is the alteration of the everglades ecosystem. Range-wide surveys conducted since 1992 have documented 90 percent declines within some subpopulations leaving the subspecies vulnerable to extinction in the near future. Although the life history of the sparrow is typical of grassland birds, its demographic characteristics leave it highly vulnerable to even short-term alterations of fire and flood regimes. A multi-billion dollar restoration plan has been launched in an effort to return everglades’ hydrology to a more natural state. However, even with this plan, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is in danger of extinction. As shown for the plight of the Dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens), a close and now extinct relative of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, management actions must be swift to avert the extinction of short-lived, habitat specialists such as this sparrow.

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