Transcript


Chickamauga Reservior
Bradley County John Laux
UTIA Graduate Student


Dr. Matthew Gray
UT Institute of Agriculture



Chuck Denney
UT Institute of Agriculture


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Chuck Denney
Least sandpipers prance and peck their way along the banks of South Mouse Creek - part of the Chickamauga Reservoir. These shorebirds like the mud, or more specifically the invertebrate critters that live in the mud – part of the diet birds need. But with fewer mudflats on the landscape, we’re seeing fewer of these birds.

Dr. Matthew Gray
“Currently over half the shorebird species in North America are in decline. The species of shorebirds that migrate through East Tennessee during August and September are primarily the ones that are in decline.”

Chuck Denney
Dr. Matthew Gray heads the Wetlands Program for UT’s Institute of Agriculture. The water levels and the availability of mudflats in these reservoirs are controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Dr. Gray and graduate student John Laux are studying the impact of lowering or drawing down water levels - and how it affects shorebird habitat.

Dr. Matthew Gray
“Our goal is to document the importance of the mudflats that are exposed when the drawdowns are occurring.”

Chuck Denney
Chickamauga is drawn down later in fall. But when the reservoir is managed that way – usually for recreational purposes – the mudflats may not be available for these birds to use. The UT research looks at how birds respond to different drawdown dates, comparing Chickamauga with Douglas Reservoir about a hundred miles away - where the drawdown occurs in summer.

Dr. Matthew Gray
“So having mudflats exposed earlier in the year - late summer for us - is critical for those birds to use the mudflats and acquire important food resources.”

Chuck Denney
If these mudflats are unavailable in Tennessee, it forces birds to fly further south without stopping. This extra travel time can deplete their energy, harm their ability to reproduce and some birds don’t survive the trip. These mudflats become rest stops for thousands of migrating birds. Some travel from the Canadian arctic to the Caribbean and South America.
Laux believes more research can clue humans about what the migratory birds need.

John Laux
“You have all these different habitat needs that must be met to complete the annual cycle. So you have to look on a broader scale that just looking at Chickamauga here. We’re one link along the entire migration path.”

Chuck Denney
Soon this shallow waterway will be nothing but mud. Other birds will be passing through, and newly-exposed mudflats will be essential to help them complete their long journey.

END

NOTE: UT scientists are also conducting similar research on shorebird habitat at Kentucky Lake in west Tennessee.