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Shorebirds as integrators and indicators of mudflat ecology
Mathot, K.J.; Piersma, T.; Elner, R.W. (2018). Shorebirds as integrators and indicators of mudflat ecology, in: Beninger, P.G. Mudflat ecology. Aquatic Ecology Series, 7: pp. 309-338.
In: Beninger, P.G. (Ed.) (2018). Mudflat ecology. Aquatic Ecology Series, 7. Springer: Cham. ISBN 978-3-319-99192-4. XIV, 429 pp., meer
In: Aquatic Ecology Series. ISSN 1573-4595, meer

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  • Mathot, K.J.
  • Piersma, T., meer
  • Elner, R.W.

    Shorebirds are major, but thus far under-acknowledged, players in mudflatfood webs and associated physio-chemical processes. Mud is a critical habitat type for shorebirds, offering a multi-dimensional matrix of feeding opportunitiesthrough space and time. Shorebirds have evolved a spectrum of foraging modes withassociated morphologies, and sensory and physiological adaptations which exploitthese foraging opportunities. Although shorebirds are mud specialists and sentinelsof mudflat ecosystem functioning, they have not yet been well integrated into the“mud club”. In this chapter, we highlight the key roles shorebirds play in food webs,and in physical and chemical processes within mudflat ecosystems. We illustratehow shorebird distribution and behaviour provides a mirror of mudflat ecologybecause their foraging behaviour reflects the underlying ecological conditions,including temporal and spatial patterns in food/community structure in and acrossmud. In particular, shorebirds may be important indicators of essential fatty acidproduction by diatoms in epibenthic biofilm fields covering muddy intertidal flats,especially in estuaries. We conclude by highlighting the major challenges facingshorebirds today and call for a paradigm shift in shorebird conservation, based onrecreating and restoring intertidal mud ecosystems.

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