Identifying Conservation Objectives for the Gulf Coast Habitats of the Black Skimmer and Gull-billed Tern
James Cronin, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Total Planned Funding: $30,000
Project Completion: September 2018
Implements Science Plan Theme: 2, 4, and 5
LCC Partners: Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks, Gulf Coast Prairie, Peninsular Florida, South Atlantic
Many shorebirds and nearshore waterbirds are of conservation concern across the Gulf of Mexico due to stressors such as human disturbance, predation, and habitat loss and degradation. Conservation and protection of these birds is important for the functioning of healthy ecosystems and for maintaining biodiversity in North America. Consequently, resource managers along the gulf need decision-aiding tools that can efficiently help to answer important conservation questions for different species (e.g. which areas and how much area should be targeted by management actions to meet a particular species’ needs).
To address this need, project researchers are developing statistical models that will help identify habitat conservation objectives and actions for bird species taking into account different gulf coast conservation scenarios that might occur in response to sea-level rise. The project will focus specifically on the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) and Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), two species identified as representative of sustainable gulf habitats and designated as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species of Conservation Concern and Gulf Coast Joint Venture Priority Species. These two birds are also representative of a variety of other beach and barrier-island nesting birds whose nesting habitats are threatened by sea-level rise (e.g., Least Tern, Snowy and Wilson’s Plover). The statistical models will link each bird’s population abundance to habitat characteristics that could be influenced by different management actions and will use this information to identify conservation objectives under different conservation scenarios.
The South Central Climate Science Center is jointly funding this project.
This project will complete one objective of a large regional project, Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast (National Landscape Conservation Cooperative Project), coordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf Restoration Program and involving USGS, LCC, USFWS, and NGO partners across the Gulf Coast.