Conservation Policy & Planning

Contributed Paper
ROOM: HCCC, Room 19

3:20PM Temporal Analysis of Threats Impacting Federally Protected Species
Delaney Costante; Aaron Haines; Carli Parenti; Olivia Rosensteel; Grace Smoot; Alexander Sandercock; Kayli Thomas; Courtney Check; Matthew Dungan; Jessica Evans; Callum Goulding; Maggie Hollingsworth; Matthias Leu; Isabel Ritrovato; Molly Ryan; Ann Marie
The U.S. Endangered Species Act was created to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Imperiled species are federally listed as either threatened or endangered (T&E). The objectives of our study were to quantify how the number of threats impacting species at time of their listing has changed, and to evaluate how the occurrence of a given threat included in a listing decision changed between 1975 and 2017. We accessed Federal Register listing documents for all T&E species listed in the U.S. and its territories from 1975 through 2017 to develop a database of threats impacting federally listed species. We defined six threat categories and recorded the presence/absence of a given threat category for a given species. Threat categories included habitat modification, overutilization, pollution, species-species interaction, demographic stochasticity, and environmental stochasticity. On average, number of threats per listing decision increased by 1.17 threats per decade. Compared to 1975, we found that the top threat occurrence in 2017 was no longer dominated by habitat modification, but also included environmental stochasticity and species-species interaction. We found a significant decrease in threat occurrence for overutilization since 1975 and for demographic stochasticity and pollution since the early 2000s. The increase in environmental stochasticity is mainly associated with the dynamics of climate change. Based on these trends, we provide recommendations on how to improve the recovery process for endangered species.
3:40PM Recovery of Species From the Endangered Species Act
Aaron Haines; Delaney Costante; Olivia Rosensteel; Grace Smoot; Tyler Treakle; Molly Ryan; Callum Goulding; Matthias Leu
The current presidential administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as well as other environmental policies. These changes reflect a major goal of the current administration; promote economic growth by minimizing regulatory uncertainty. In certain regions of the U.S., the ESA impacts local economic and infrastructure development. In response, the current administration has recommended several amendments to the ESA including reduction of lawsuits, a cap on species listings and more involvement of states in the listing and recovery process. Based on a review of federal register delisting documents for recovered species, we outlined the associated costs and benefits to the administration’s proposed amendments to the ESA. The goal of our analysis was to identify strategies that can reduce conflict between species conservation and economic growth. Recommended strategies include expediting the listing process for unprotected at risk species to expedite future recovery potential, provide economic incentives to working private landowners who manage for federally listed species, and have states and federal agencies work more closely to establish agreements and assurances in managing at risk and federally protected species. These recommendations help establish scientifically based bipartisan efforts to reduce the need for federal listing and expedite species recovery under the ESA.
4:00PM Subdivision for Conservation
Marjorie R. Liberati; Chadwick D. Rittenhouse; Jason C. Vokoun
Land conversion to residential or commercial uses is possibly the single greatest human threat to terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity because it is almost always an irreversible transformation of land use. While subdivision usually contributes to land conversion, we suggest that subdivision, decoupled from development, could actually benefit biodiversity. With subdivision processes, land conservation could systemically and strategically target areas that maximize conservation benefits while simultaneously minimize tradeoffs with other objectives. We evaluated social, economic, and ecological objectives which included maximizing total protected habitat for threatened or endangered species, while minimizing economic objectives of land acquisition cost, loss of tax base, and loss of potential value from future development. Social objectives, expressed as zoning regulations, town character, and development risk, reflected the potential value of properties and community support for acquisition projects. We systematically subdivided a New England landscape with a fully automated vector-based land subdivision tool which maximized the number of lots while minimizing the creation of new streets within a parcel. Within pre- and post-subdivided landscapes, we used a custom NSGA-II genetic algorithm to identify protected area networks solutions that allowed us to explore how multiple objectives could be accomplished without incurring unacceptable losses to any one objective. Algorithm outcomes were analyzed with Pareto efficiency frontiers to investigate if subdivision lead to improved outcomes or reduced tradeoffs for objectives in the post-subdivision landscape. Subdivision resulted in opportunities to systematically increase representation of priority habitats as well as strategically navigate tradeoffs with social and economic objectives. Subdivision could improve conservation implementation by identifying new opportunity areas for protection beyond what is possible for existing parcel boundaries while accommodating the social and economic contexts of the landscape.
4:20PM Can Grizzly Bears Contribute to Songbird Conservation in Alberta : the Potential for Umbrella and Surrogacy Effects
Emily Cicon; Gordon Stenhouse; Dan Farr; Scott Nielsen
Can Grizzly Bears Contribute to Songbird Conservation in Alberta: The Potential for Umbrella and Surrogacy Effects Emily Cicon, MSc Candidate, University of Alberta Gordon Stenhouse, Foothills Research Institute Dan Farr, Alberta Environments and Parks Scott Nielsen, University of Alberta Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), a Threatened and flagship species for conservation in Alberta, have habitat that overlaps with areas actively managed by industry and government. A key conservation question is whether protecting habitat for grizzlies effectively conserves other species, thereby reducing the number of actions needed to be undertaken and increasing efficiency in achieving conservation goals. The objective of this study is to test this question by evaluating the ability of grizzly bear habitat to conserve songbirds in Alberta. We address this at two different scales representing umbrella species (over large extents) and surrogate species (patch-level) perspectives. For umbrella analyses, grizzly bear-sized planning units (equal to home range) were compared to those of other flagship species in Alberta to test whether grizzly bears were better than other flagship species in promoting songbird conservation using province-wide songbird abundance data. On the other hand, the surrogate species scale compared songbird data collected in the field using autonomous recording units to evaluate differences in songbird composition between sites used by grizzly bears (collar-data) and nearby random sites. Size of area used was generally important – with grizzly bear home range-sized areas containing higher species richness than smaller areas and being equivalent in songbird richness to much larger areas. Grizzly bear range within Alberta was also found to contain higher species richness than alternative flagship species ranges. These results indicate that conserving grizzly bear habitat can also benefit songbirds, although it is only applicable over specific sizes of areas.
4:40PM Developing Predictive Distribution Models for Secretive Marsh Birds: Occupancy and Spatial Modeling to Facilitate Habitat Conservation
Bryan S. Stevens; Courtney J. Conway
Models are commonly used for predicting species distributions and characterizing wildlife-habitat relationships. As such, distribution models play a pivotal role in prioritizing habitat management and conservation. Secretive marsh birds are a widely distributed species group whose statuses range from common and harvested to threatened and endangered. Many marsh bird populations have declined, thus identification of remaining areas with optimal habitat is helpful for management and land-use planning. Our objective was to develop optimally-predictive distribution models for 14 species of marsh birds in North America, and use these models to identify important areas for conservation of breeding habitats. We used data from field surveys conducted during a 14-year period (1999-2012) at > 8,000 sites across the U.S. to develop hierarchical occupancy models to characterize species distributions, and used Bayesian model selection to optimize model structures for prediction. We modeled occupancy as a function of wetland and land cover attributes measured at multiple spatial scales, and identified the optimally-predictive multi-scale model for each species. We used spatial analyses to translate these models into maps of predicted habitat suitability, allowing us to identify the most important habitats for each species. Lastly, we illustrate the integration of these tools to identify important areas for habitat conservation on military installations located across the continental U.S., and show that an aggregation of important areas occurs on a small number of sites located primarily in the southeastern U.S. This work provides a vital first step towards conserving the most valuable habitat for secretive marsh birds at a continental scale. Moreover, our synthetic approach provides a state-of-the-art framework for modeling species distribution as a function of optimally-predictive habitat attributes, and translating such models into habitat suitability maps that will prove extremely useful for wildlife conservation and management.


Contributed Paper
Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 9, 2018 Time: 3:20 pm - 5:00 pm