The sustainability of natural and cultural resources and landscapes are important to quality of life and local economies. Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) address large scale natural resource challenges that transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries and require a networked approach to conservation— holistic, collaborative, and grounded in science – to ensure the sustainability of America’s land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC, established in 2010, is focused on a diverse range of fish, wildlife and other natural resources that transcend existing state and international borders including the Great Lakes, North America’s largest freshwater resource,...
Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast
The RESTORE Act (33 U.S. Code § 1321) directs 80% of Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (likely to be in the billions) to Gulf of Mexico restoration. Gulf partners profess a common goal of “restoring and protecting the natural resources…and economy of the Gulf Coast region”(Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council 2013:2), yet specific and explicit objectives that quantify what it means to actually achieve this goal remain undefined. Despite the presence of numerous conservation partnerships along the Gulf of Mexico, there is concern that this unprecedented opportunity will lack a coordinated response (NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program 2013). The success of the RESTORE Act will hinge...
Ecosystem Dynamics and Fate of Warm Permafrost after Tundra Wildfire and Lake Drainage on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) encompasses the southernmost, warmest parts of the arctic tundra biome and is renowned for its high biological productivity and large subsistence-based human population. Ice-rich permafrost currently is widespread and strongly influences terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including local topography, vegetation, soil hydrology, and the water balance of lakes. Ground temperatures are near the freezing point, however, and recent projections indicate that the YKD is poised for widespread loss of permafrost by the end of this century. This has implications for the region’s extensive and heretofore stable terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Tundra wildfire is a common ecological “pulse” disturbance...
Grassland-shrubland prairie has been important to the livelihoods of generations of ranchers; to the hunting community because of prized game species; and to endangered species, such as the black-capped vireo, as habitat. In the past, the interests of ranchers, hunters, and endangered species have come into conflict because of increasing pressures on the prairie from land use conversion, new development, and habitat fragmentation. Greater collaboration in advancing mutual interests would greatly expand and improve Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative partners’ efforts to conserve the remaining prairie habitats of the southern Great Plains.
A “gateway” using Data Basin technology has been developed to serve the data integration, collaboration and outreach needs of the NPLCC. The gateway will continue to be a customized interface of the Data Basin platform that includes special branding, curation of spatial content, and direct links to selected sites in support of projects funded by and for the NPLCC . Conservation Biology Institute will add to the “gateway” a spatial data visualization tool to showcase priority data from the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership.
Building partnerships and establishing consensus on regional priorities across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Cooperative
This project connects scientists and managers from federal, tribal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations to exchange information and establish common priorities for management of terrestrial wildlife populations. To achieve these goals, we are organizing interactive workshops with partners across the region. In year 2, we will assess the risk posed by climate change and other major stressors to a subset of priority species (as identified by regional partners). This assessment will integrate available data and scientific understanding in a transparent process, detailing assumptions and uncertainties to project population-level responses of target species to climate change.
Development of Tools and Technology to Improve the Success and Planning of Restoration of Big Sagebrush Ecosystems
FY2013Shrub-dominated ecosystems of the Great Basin are being threatened by disturbances, typically wildfire followed by encroachment of invasive plants (e.g., cheat grass). To mitigate these threats and future changes in the climate to big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), restorationists require a knowledge base and tools to inform them of the most appropriate seed sources to plant to greatly enhance the success of restoration under contemporary and future climates. We propose to develop climate-responsive seed transfer zones based on associating plant quantitative traits and ecophysiological data from common gardens to the climate of the seed source.
Capacity to prioritize barrier removals in the Great Lakes basin is currently limited by lack of data on the passability of road crossings and dams for both unwanted invasive species and desirable native migratory fishes. Building upon our initial barrier inventory, this project has two key elements. First, we are testing whether our landscape statistical models accurately predict the upstream limits of fish migrations along the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan. This involves intensive field work to determine the actual upstream limits of suckers, pike, and steelhead during the spring migration. Second, we are collecting systematic data on the size and condition of dams throughout the Lake Michigan basin. These...
Completing Northeast Regional Vulnerability Assessment Incorporating the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index
Numerous studies show that ongoing climate change will have major effects on the distribution and conservation status of much of our biodiversity. Resource managers urgently need a means to identify which species and habitats are most vulnerable to decline in order to direct resources where they will be most effective. To address this need, NatureServe and Heritage Program collaborators have developed a Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) to provide a rapid, scientifically defensible assessment of species’ vulnerability to climate change. The CCVI integrates information about exposure to altered climates and species-specific sensitivity factors known to be associated with vulnerability to climate change. This...
Dozens of species of landbirds, such as warblers, hummingbirds, and orioles, migrate through the Northeastern United States from their summer breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada to their nonbreeding grounds as far south as South America. During the migration period, birds must find habitat where they can stop, rest and replenish their energy reserves. Conservation efforts are increasingly focused on identifying stopover sites that are important for sustaining migratory landbird populations. This project builds upon prior work by the University of Delaware and USGS to use weather surveillance data and field surveys to map and predict important migratory bird stopover sites.
Mapping of barriers and statistical prediction of their passability is now fairly complete in the Great Lakes basin, yet field assessments of barrier characteristics and passability to migratory fishes are spotty. We will use the Lake Michigan basin as a pilot area for comprehensive field assessment of dam condition, dimensions, and passage technologies. These characteristics will be incorporated into our barrier database, enabling improved estimates of removal costs, watershed cumulative passability, and infrastructure maintenance challenges. In parallel, we will conduct field assessments of passability to spring migrations of Great Lakes fishes in 15 Wisconsin watersheds. Recording the upstream limits of migrations...