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
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
- 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.