Bird population maps can help protect biodiversity •


A new study conducted by the The University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed detailed maps of bird biodiversity across the entire United States to help conservation managers focus their efforts in areas where they are most likely to help endangered bird populations of disappearance.

Because many resources previously available to conservation managers – such as species range maps – are both overbroad and not rigorously tested for accuracy, the new maps focus on individual counties or forests rather than entire states or regions, and are based on both detailed bird observations and various environmental factors that affect bird ranges, such as forest cover or temperature levels in specific areas.

“With these maps, managers have a tool that they did not have before and that allows them to obtain both a broad perspective and information at the level of detail necessary for their action plans”, said said study co-author Anna Pidgeon, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology at UW-Madison.

“All over the world we are witnessing huge losses of species. In North America, three billion birds have been lost since 1970. This affects virtually all habitat types,” added the study’s lead author, Kathleen Carroll, postdoctoral researcher in wildlife conservation at the same university. “And we’re seeing a disconnect between what scientists produce for conservation and how that translates into on-the-ground management.”

To address these issues, Dr. Carroll and his colleagues produced maps based on bird biodiversity data by extrapolating bird sightings from scientific surveys to mile-by-mile predictions of where actually live. specific species. Predictions were based on factors such as rainfall, forest cover, or the extent of human influence on the environment, such as the presence of urban areas or farms.

Scientists have grouped individual species by habitat, diet, behavior or conservation status, grouping them into “guilds” such as frugivores or forest dwellers. The final maps cover 19 different guilds at 0.5, 2.5, and 5 kilometer resolutions. According to the researchers, the 2.5 km resolution maps offered the best balance between accuracy and usefulness for realistic conservation needs.

“We think this really applies to things like forest management action plans for the US Forest Service,” Dr. Carroll explained. “They can display these maps for an interest group, and they can get a very clear indication of areas where they might want to limit human use.” Additionally, these maps could also help private land conservation agencies decide where to prioritize their often limited resources in order to maximize biodiversity protection.

The researchers plan to extend their analyzes to individual species rather than guilds made up of different species to help conservation managers aiming to protect specific species improve their work.

The study is published in the journal Ecological applications and all maps are available for download on the open access website Dryad.

By Andrei Ionescu, Personal editor

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