The central objective of this project will be to help identify conservation priority areas for breeding birds in the Western Great Lakes Basin, encompassing the Laurentian Mixed Forest Ecological Province (see maps of study area). Evidence from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (Price et al. 1995) and other studies (Robinson et al. 1995) shows that this region is particularly important for populations of Neotropical migratory birds, including a number of species that have experienced steady declines during the past 20 years (Robbins et al. 1996). Previous work by the scientists involved with this proposal, with support by the Great Lakes Protection Fund and other sources, has provided an extensive body of information about bird distributions in this region. Coupled with land cover data from satellite images, much of which has been interpreted to a fine level of resolution at the Natural Resources Research Institute, the opportunity now exists to develop accurate, basin-wide maps of bird abundance and diversity. These maps can be designed to identify critical areas where land protection efforts will be most effective in preserving sensitive or declining species.

In addition to providing conservation priority maps, our proposed project will develop an interactive, web-based application that makes the information available to any agency, organization, company, or individual who has access to the Internet. This tool creates a resource that can be improved iteratively as more information becomes available or as field surveys reveal changes in environmental conditions (e.g., climate change).

Decision-makers and customers of the web-based application will include local governments, land trusts, private conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, environmental consulting firms, scientific researchers, and others who make decisions that affect the quality of habitats for breeding bird populations. Our results will help answer questions such as the following:

  • Which areas in the Great Lakes Basin provide the most cost effective opportunities for protecting sensitive bird populations?
  • In the context of regional bird populations, how important is an area under some particular management responsibility?
  • What are the likely effects of a proposed land development project, logging operation, or land management plan on the regional populations of migratory breeding birds?
  • If the regional environment is transformed into a different configuration of land cover, what will be the expected impacts on breeding bird populations?

These questions encompass both local and large scales of reference, but the answers will require information that is geographically specific.

  Great Lakes Bird Conservation
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Last Edit Date: September 26, 2006
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