Mapping and Monitoring Avian Resources

With 10,000 miles of shoreline and a watershed area of more than 300,000 square miles (including land and water), the Great Lakes region provides important breeding, feeding, and resting areas for many birds. Much of the Great Lakes coastal aquatic and terrestrial landscapes that once supported migrating birds have been lost or degraded, yet the region supports hundreds of millions of migrants during both spring and fall migration. To assist in managing these bird populations and conserving the habitats that support them, stakeholders need accurate and up-to-date information on how these populations use the Great Lakes. Armed with this knowledge, natural resource managers, conservationists, and others can make better decisions in habitat restoration investments and identifying important habitats that should be protected.
This project will make significant contributions toward building regional capacity for integrating and interpreting data and information about pelagic bird distribution and abundance in the open water. It will help inform future management and conservation decisions that might affect open water birds in the Great Lakes through their life cycles. The main objective is to develop a data management system and predictive models to better serve and inform conservation and planning efforts through the collaborative work with natural resource managers and other stakeholders.

Project Narrative

Wildlife agencies often lack adequate knowledge of pelagic (open water) bird migration patterns and non-breeding habitat use in the Great Lakes and may thus be less equipped to recommend measures to avoid and minimize development impacts and habitat loss. This project is the first step in answering the question: how do birds use near-shore and offshore areas of the Great Lakes during the non-breeding season, and how can this information be used to evaluate the potential impact of resource management decisions?

For two annual cycles (2012-2014) the Great Lakes Commission coordinated aerial pelagic bird surveys in selected offshore areas of the Great Lakes. The project is now in its third phase, in which a team of researchers is exploring modeling methods that will help generate meaningful data and information for nearshore spatial planning, conservation activities, and wildlife management.

The main objective is to develop predictive models of water bird distributions and densities across the Great Lakes to support decision-making and conservation planning through identification of “hotspot” and “coldspot” locations, identification of relationships between water bird occurrences, abundances, and relevant environmental covariates, and standardization of data across differing sampling protocols.

In a parallel and complementary activity, this project establishes a foundational data management system and fosters a community of researchers that contribute data to the system beyond the life of the project. Tools for data analysis and visualization are available through the Midwest Avian Data Center that provides the platform to manage scientific data, foster meaningful data visualizations, and coordinate partnerships around conservation questions. By making the data discoverable, users can navigate through the database and visualize the information through different outputs.

The data collected, analyzed and modeled through this project will make a significant contribution to conservation planning, such as guiding habitat restoration and acquisition activities, permitting offshore wind and other human activities, as well as understanding impacts of invasive species. Building on the effort of the first two phases, phase three develops a data management system and predictive models to better serve and inform conservation and planning efforts through the collaborative work with natural resource managers and other stakeholders.

Project Partners

Funding

This project is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act grants program.

For More Information

Michele Leduc-Lapierre
Senior Program Specialist
Great Lakes Commission,
734‐971‐9135
[email protected]

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