Ecological Models and Biodiversity Conservation in Nebraska Landscapes

Biodiversity is increasingly threatened by an array of stressors; therefore, sustainable means of satisfying growing human resource demands while protecting the environment and at-risk species must continue to be explored and implemented. The consideration of alternative, plausible futures for, and adaptive management of, social-ecological systems have been promoted for addressing present societal, environmental and ecological challenges; however, the application of these approaches has been met with varying degrees of success at different spatial and temporal scales. Learning from the past, adjusting current strategies according to new findings, and considering alternative plausible scenarios of the future could increase preparedness and improve management outcomes, despite uncertainties.

Goals

The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project is a state wildlife action plan that aims at accomplishing the following objectives:
1. Reverse declines of at-risk species;
2. Recover species currently listed as state or federally threatened or endangered;
3. Keep common species common, and conserve natural communities.

Current Status

The Nebraska Legacy plan identifies 39 Biologically Unique Landscape(s) (BUL) within Nebraska where conservation actions will be specifically targeted. A coarse filter/fine filter approach to conservation has been adopted in the plan, with the goal of benefiting the majority of species by managing at the community (coarse filter) level. Threatened species not encompassed by community–level management are then addressed specifically (fine filter). 

This project is developing distribution models for species and/or communities identified as conservation targets within Nebraska BULs, with the goal of integrating modeling into an adaptive management conservation framework for BUL management. Scenarios of 21st century landuse change will also be developed and simulated for selected BULs, in order to increase preparedness and assist decision–making in uncertain futures. 

Expected products for BULs include habitat suitability ranks, assessments of functional connectivity for suitable habitat patches, baseline community area and species abundance estimates, identification of locations for focusing additional sampling and monitoring efforts, predicted community distributions and species abundances under an array of plausible management–based scenarios, simulations of future landuse change, evaluation of progress toward accomplishing established conservation objectives, and identification of suitable locations for the reintroduction of extirpated target species. Modeling techniques will be utilized according to data availability and their propriety for addressing specific research questions. Within an iterative framework, conservation objectives, management actions, and modeling techniques may be altered as additional information supporting adjustments are obtained.

Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NE CFWRU
Graduate Student(s)
-Daniel Uden, Ph.D. (2017)
Project Duration
August 2012 - January 2017
Funding
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
- National Science Foundation IGERT Program
Project Location
Nebraska