Tag: Partners in Flight

3 BILLION BIRDS GONE: Together we can bring them back

Data show that since 1970, the U.S. and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion birds, a massive reduction in abundance involving hundreds of species, from beloved backyard songbirds to long-distance migrants.

Learn more about what you can do at www.3BillionBirds.org

Today our colleagues published a study in the journal Science revealing that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29 percent, or almost 3 billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis. The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats — from iconic songsters such as meadowlarks to long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds including sparrows. The study notes that birds are indicators of environmental health, signaling that natural systems across the U.S. and Canada are now being so severely impacted by human activities that they no longer support the same robust wildlife populations.

The authors emphasize that “The story is not over. There are so many ways to help save birds!” Their study documents promising rebounds resulting from galvanized human efforts including the recovery of waterfowl over the past 50 years and the spectacular comebacks that raptors, such as the Bald Eagle, have also made since the 1970s. Birds are telling us we must act now to ensure our planet can sustain wildlife and people and there are things we can all do to help make a bird-friendly planet.

To learn more about this paper see the complete press release at eBird Northwest.

Images Courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Science Brief: Integrating focal and priority species needs to inform restoration design on the South Fork Stillaguamish Vegetation Project

Overview
A conservation planning framework that applies what we know about birds as indicators of forest structure and composition can inform landscape level planning and stand level restoration. Such planning strives to achieve restoration goals that benefit entire forests and the animals that inhabit them. We selected focal bird species that are representative of old growth forest conditions, and then, within the focal species framework we included the needs of priority wildlife and plant species. By cross-walking a focal and priority species approach, we identify current and desired conditions, recommend prescription components, and implement monitoring to measure treatment effectiveness. Klamath Bird Observatory has partnered with the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, and Puget Sound Bird Observatory to form a technical advisory team which is working side by side with the Regional Forest Service Avian Conservation Program Manager and USDA Forest Service Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest staff to inform restoration planning. Collectively, this team has integrated focal species needs into planning for the South Fork Stillaguamish Vegetation Project and designed a robust monitoring strategy to measure ecological outcomes.

This vegetation project is occurring in densely stocked Late Successional Reserves (areas set aside to provide old growth habitat). The Forest has identified ~3000 acres where commercial thinning of trees <80 years of age would be both feasible and beneficial to old growth dependent species within a project area of 65,000 acres. Restoration goals are to promote stand development and characteristics of old forests, e.g. broadleaf plants, structural diversity, standing dead trees, and coarse woody debris on the ground. Thus, thinning is designed to promote tree species diversity, structural complexity, and understory cover at the treatment site and contribute to landscape scale goals for Late Successional Reserve habitat diversity over the long-term.

Prioritizing where restoration would have the largest impact
At the onset of the partnership, the technical advisory team looked at areas that the Forest had assessed for potential restoration and identified the upper South Fork Stillaguamish drainage as a conservation priority. The area is designated as a Late Successional Reserve and is currently comprised largely of second growth stands that are adjacent to large contiguous stands of mature and old growth forest. Forest restoration treatments that accelerate the development of older forest characteristics will have added value in this landscape by reducing fragmentation and creating larger blocks of priority forest age structure. Klamath Bird Observatory applied avian climate models and determined that this area is a good candidate for climate smart restoration — that is, the desired conditions align with what climate models project for the area over the next 50-100 years. The upper South Fork Stillaguamish drainage also lends itself well to monitoring — it has good road access, a reasonable number of replicates for treatment and control stands with similar vegetation and age structure, and is a reasonable size to implement both stand and landscape level monitoring.

Integrating the Partners in Flight Conservation Planning Framework
The technical advisory team worked with the forest planning team to inform restoration planning, including stand level treatment prescriptions. Klamath Bird Observatory, working closely with the Regional Forest Service Avian Conservation Program Manager, applied focal species information from applicable Partners in Flight conservation plans. We identified current and desired conditions based on a suite of focal landbird species indicative of specific stand attributes, structure, and condition. Tribal partners identified additional plant and wildlife species that are management and/or cultural priorities in the planning area. Collectively, working within the sideboards of the Forest Service environmental assessment, we established measurable habitat objectives to achieve desired habitat conditions based on the habitat needs of focal species.

Because focal species informed planning, we applied the same approach to develop a short and long term monitoring strategy that will measure treatment effectiveness and inform adaptive management. Klamath Bird Observatory worked with the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians to design site and landscape scale monitoring. By measuring changes in bird communities and vegetation we will be able to assess whether restoration treatments have the desired result, and because a suite of birds serve as indicators of various forest components, we will be able to assess whether the forest is on a trajectory toward older forest conditions over the next 20-50 years. The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians in partnership with the Puget Sound Bird Observatory are completing bird and vegetation monitoring, in part, through citizen science. Achieving long-term monitoring goals is dependent on partnerships, and this project provides a great example of how various organizations can bring expertise to the table to accomplish goals in a cost effective manner. Data are being contributed to Avian Knowledge Northwest, a regional node of the Avian Knowledge Network and thus, also contributing to this larger avian data collaboration with the potential to inform regional management challenges and conservation planning at even broader scales.

KBO Science Director wins Leadership in Conservation Award

The accomplishments of Klamath Bird Observatory’s Science Director Jaime Stephens have been recognized by the international bird conservation consortium Partners in Flight (PIF)—presenting her with its prestigious Leadership in Conservation Award. The Leadership Award honors an individual or group that demonstrates outstanding guidance and direction that contributes, or has contributed, to advancing Partners in Flight conservation efforts. Jaime accepted the award at the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Virginia earlier this year.

In nominating Jaime, colleague Barb Bresson, Regional Avian Program Manager with the US Forest Service and 2013 Leadership Awardee, stated “Jaime exemplifies excellence in leadership as KBO’s Science Director supervising and mentoring a team of incredibly effective, passionate, and productive biologists while also actively engaging and taking on leadership roles in PIF and within other conservation focused initiatives.”

Since her start with KBO in 2002, Jaime has placed her indelible stamp on bird conservation at all scales, local to international. It is the breadth and depth of her accomplishments that prompted this recognition. As Science Director, she directs the science program at KBO, conducting and publishing her own work on bird conservation but collaborates extensively with colleagues on other science. She has been instrumental in driving the discussion on bird data management nationally, has led the way for bird conservation partnerships across the west to greater and more permanent conservation action, and continues to seek new opportunities to improve and align bird conservation. Her effectiveness stems from her steadfast belief in a data-driven approach to bird conservation science, and from her infectious enthusiasm, optimism, and engaging leadership style which brings together partners from similar and disparate groups.

Jaime served as Chair of the Western Working Group of Partners in Flight (WWG) for three years (2012-2015). During her tenure, the WWG established new internal policies of governance lending long-term stability to the organization, expanded the Group’s reach and diversity of participants, and advanced new conservation initiatives which continue today. This is consistent with her steady and reasoned leadership style which engenders trust and credibility. When Jaime talks, people listen. Despite having rotated out of the Chair position, Jaime continues to lend her expertise and experience to the WWG, and continues her strong and positive influence on the direction of the WWG’s conservation initiatives in the west, from Mexico to Canada.

Jaime embodies the mission of Partners in Flight—to advance full life-cycle conservation of landbirds in the Americas via sound science, integrated conservation partnerships, habitat delivery on public and private lands, and targeted citizen outreach. Her accomplishments hold significance. Please join us in congratulations to Jaime for this well-deserved recognition.

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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.

Science Guides Private Lands Conservation

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This article is the seventh installment in the series Achieving Partners in Flight Strategic Goals and Objectives.

 

Klamath Bird Observatory is working with local restoration partners to integrate Partners in Flight priorities and objectives into private lands restoration programs.  The Central Umpqua Mid Klamath Oak Habitat Conservation Project, funded by the NRCS Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, is a landscape-scale effort to restore oak woodlands on private lands in southern Oregon and northern California.  As a part of this project 15 public and private partners leveraged over $3.8 million to restore 2,000 acres of Oregon white oak habitat.

 

Lomakatsi Restoration Project and Klamath Bird Observatory are using objectives from regional Partners in Flight (PIF) conservation plans to guide the restoration.  Habitat objectives for Oak Titmouse, Acorn Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and other oak woodland species are providing details for management prescriptions designed to create oak woodland habitat mosaics, restore native perennial grasses, and reintroduce natural fire regimes whenever possible.  Bird monitoring is being integrated into habitat monitoring efforts to assess the effectiveness of restoration based on PIF population objectives. This unique collaboration received the 2012 Department of Interior Partners in Conservation Award.

 

Download the Partners in Flight Conservation Brief for this project by clicking here. Also see the 2013 State of the Birds Report on Private Lands that highlighted this collaborative oak restoration project in the section on western forest conservation.

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