Tag: American Bird Conservancy

Vesper Sparrow Film site is now live!

We have some exciting updates to share with you all here at Klamath Bird Observatory. The Oregon Vesper Sparrow research we have been working so hard on is being turned into a short-film documentary! Local photographer and videographer Daniel Thiede has spent countless hours in the field with us this past year to help document our research efforts. We are thrilled to announce the Vesper Sparrow Film site is now live! Click on the link below to view the trailer for the film and to donate to the Oregon Vesper Sparrow research and documentary. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and need your support!

CLICK HERE to visit the Vesper Sparrow Film website.  

The Oregon Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus affinis can be found west of the Cascade Mountains. This subspecies has been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act because of its small population size and declining trend. Breeding Bird Surveys indicate a statistically significant declining population trend of ~5% per year. The 2010 estimated range-wide population size was <3,000 birds, and more recent information suggests that number is closer to 2,000 birds.

Understanding the causes of population decline is critical to informing conservation action. A group of collaborators are contributing to a three year range-wide study to assess limiting factors. The study will assess whether birds are successfully producing young, surviving the winter, and dispersing to nearby habitat to identify where within the annual life cycle conservation actions are needed.

With the Oregon Vesper Sparrow currently under a 12-month review to determine whether listing under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, it is critical to understand subspecies variation for this species. Improved understanding of variation in morphology and vocalizations of the Oregon Vesper Sparrow subspecies, compared with other Vesper Sparrow subspecies, may have major conservation implications.

KBO, along with project partners in the Puget Lowlands in Washington (Center for Natural Lands Management), as well as the Willamette Valley (American Bird Conservancy), and a graduate student from Southern Oregon University, have been in the field collecting data to help us understand what makes this subspecies unique. Next year our efforts will continue, and our work on subspecies variation will be expanded to include the Great Basin Vesper Sparrow populations P.g. confinis in eastern Oregon.

Please continue to tune in to KBO and the Vesper Sparrow Film websites to receive updates on this important work.

Oregon Vesper Sparrow Conservation

The Oregon Vesper Sparrow is a subspecies of the Vesper Sparrow, a migratory grassland-obligate bird. This subspecies nests to the west of the Vesper Sparrow’s continental breeding range. The Oregon Vesper Sparrow is at risk of becoming extinct.  However, KBO’s science is informing important steps in its conservation.  

In early 2017, new protections for Oregon Vesper Sparrows that breed in grasslands adjacent to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument were put in place when President Obama issued a proclamation that doubled the size of this Monument. The expansion increased the amount of grassland habitats that occur in the Monument, and thus in the Region’s network of protected areas.

Klamath Bird Observatory’s science informed President Obama’s decision to expand the Monument. The expansion focused on at-risk species and considered ‘ecological’ boundaries to provide further protection for the biodiversity for which the Monument was originally established. Specifically, Obama’s proclamation expanded protection for grasslands and oak woodlands that are critical for bird conservation — habitats that occurred near but not within the original Monument boundary.

One of KBO’s most recent peer-reviewed papers identified these habitats as underrepresented in our regions National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and Monuments. President Obama’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was driven by this and other regionally relevant science. As a result the expansion benefited some of Oregon’s most at-risk and under protected birds, including the Oregon Vesper Sparrow.

Despite this success story, the Vesper Sparrow still faces significant conservation challenges.
A petition to list the Oregon Vesper Sparrow under the Endangered Species Act has been submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The species is at-risk of extinction because 1) it has a very small population (estimated at <3,000 individuals), 2) for the past half-decade this population has been declining by 5% per year, and 3) ongoing habitat loss and degradation continues to threaten the grasslands that Oregon Vesper Sparrows depend on for nesting. Adding to these challenges, there is uncertainty about why this species is in such decline.

For us to effectively save this species there are key questions we must answer about when and where during its annual cycle it is most threatened. Which threats — threats to its breeding, migratory stopover, or wintering habitats — are most ‘limiting’ to this subspecies? KBO is collaborating with the American Bird Conservancy and many other partners to answer these questions in order to better prioritize conservation actions that will stabilize and reverse its population declines.

The Oregon Vesper Sparrow is featured on KBO’s 2017 Conservation Science Stamp — CLICK HERE to learn more about our Conservation Stamp Set.  

SCIENCE BRIEF – High ranking priority conservation areas concentrated in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion

Areas where the density-based Zonation analysis produced high rankings were concentrated in the southwest of the study area in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion.

A new paper published in the journal Conservation Biology presents results from a novel conservation planning approach.  This approach uses detailed data that predict the density of bird species across landscapes, as opposed to probability of occurrence models more typically used in conservation planning.  These density-based models are better suited for identifying the highest priority conservation areas.  The models were used to identify priority conservation areas in the Pacific Northwest.  The results show a concentration of high ranking conservation areas in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion.  The Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion is recognized as an area of great biological diversity and as an important area for avian diversity.  This new paper further demonstrates that the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion stands out as an important area for conservation focus.

This newly released Conservation Biology paper, titled Improving Effectiveness of Systematic Conservation Planning with Density Data represents collaboration among scientists from Klamath Bird Observatory, American Bird Conservancy, and Point Blue Conservation Science and was made possible with funding from the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative and data contributed from many Avian Knowledge Network partners.

Collaborative Partnerships and Data Sharing Result in Novel Approach for Better Conservation Planning

*** SCIENCE BRIEF AND NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

June 17, 2015

Contact: John Alexander, jda [AT] klamathbird.org, 541-201-0866 x1#

A recent study published in the journal Conservation Biology makes a strong case for a new approach to conservation planning that uses much more robust data sets in order to better protect birds, plants, and animals. The concept is fairly simple, but won’t work unless scientists can agree to share data across studies.

“Right now, we primarily only use presence and absence data for species when conservation planning for large landscapes. Much of this is due to the cost and time of collecting more comprehensive data,” said the study’s lead author, Sam Veloz, climate adaptation group leader at Point Blue Conservation Science. “We can do a much better job of conservation planning if we include data on individual species richness, not just whether they are present.”

To illustrate this point, a research collaboration including authors from Point Blue, American Bird Conservancy, and Klamath Bird Observatory encouraged partners to make their detailed bird observation data accessible through the Avian Knowledge Network.  Members of the Oregon/Washington Partners in Flight bird conservation community rallied to the call and over 900,000 new bird observations from 23 different studies were contributed to the Avian Knowledge Network through the Avian Knowledge Northwest node.  These data were then combined with bird data from the California Avian Data Center and used to develop both presence/absence species distribution models and density models covering coastal Northern California, Oregon and Washington for 26 species of land birds representing four different habitat types.  These models are freely available as part of the Pacific Northwest Climate Change Avian Vulnerability Tool available at Avian Knowledge Northwest.

To demonstrate the value of this large and detailed dataset, the Point Blue, American Bird Conservancy, and Klamath Bird Observatory researchers mapped conservation priority areas based on both the presence/absence and density models and compared the estimated population size protected in priority areas mapped using each method. “As expected, we found that the prioritizations based on count data protected more individuals of each species than the prioritizations based on presence/absence data in the areas of highest conservation priority,” Veloz said.

Veloz sees the main challenge is getting scientists from across the conservation spectrum to share their high-quality count data of individual species, no matter the study size, so planners can have as broad a dataset as possible when drawing up conservation plans. “This study shows the value of researchers sharing their data. We can combine and recycle data from multiple studies, and re-use it to answer larger conservation questions,” Veloz said. “If we all worked together to share data, we could better prioritize and protect important habitat.”

This study was funded by the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

To access this paper click here:

ConBi Paper

Full citation: Veloz, S., Salas, L., Altman, B., Alexander, J., Jongsomjit, D., Elliott, N., Ballard, G. 2015. Improving effectiveness of systematic conservation planning with density data. Conservation Biology. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12499/abstract.

This news release adapted from Point Blue Conservation Science June 10, 2015 Press Release.

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