Modeling regional-scale habitat of forest birds when land management guidelines are needed but information is limited
Beaudry, F., A. M. Pidgeon, V. C. Radeloff, R. W. Howe, D. J. Mladenoff, and G. A. Bartelt. 2010. A framework for regional scale planning for forest birds of conservation concern in the face of limited information and a need for land management guidelines. Biological Conservation, 143(7):1759-1769.
Conservation planning at broad spatial scales facilitates coherence between local land management and objectives set at the state or provincial level. Habitat suitability models are commonly used to identify key areas for conservation planning. The challenge is that habitat suitability models are data hungry, which limits their applicability to species for which detailed information exists, but managers need to address the needs of all at-risk species. We propose a modeling approach useful for regional-scale conservation planning that accommodates limited species knowledge, and identifies what managers should aim for at the local scale. For twenty at-risk bird species, we built models to identify potential habitat using both literature information and empirical data. Species occupancy within potential habitat depends on the presence of intrinsic elements, which we identified for each species so that managers can enhance these elements as appropriate. For most species, the estimated amount of habitat needed to meet population targets was <10% of the mapped potential habitat, with notable exceptions for Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis; 100%), Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum; 63.7%), and Veery (Catharus fuscescens; 17.9%). Model validation showed that interior forest species models performed best. Our modeling framework allowed us to build potential habitat models to various endpoints for different species, depending on the information available, and revealed a number of species for which basic natural history data are missing. Our potential habitat models provide regional perspective and guide local habitat management, and assist in identifying research priorities.