Throughout the Great Plains, changing land–use practices are resulting in large scale biodiversity loss and an ever increasing dependence on effective conservation and restoration efforts provided by private, state, and federal agencies. Unfortunately management efforts sometimes fail to demonstrate the desired outcome for wildlife populations. Understanding why management is unsuccessful is paramount, but past studies often fail to consider the importance of ecological mechanisms that act across multiple spatial and temporal scales. By exploring how grassland birds associate with habitat based on local vegetative composition as well as landscape attributes, we can gain perspective on why populations and communities fail to react to apparently suitable habitat improvements.
GoalsUsing geographic information system spatial analysis tools, we are analyzing data from avian point count surveys and local vegetation assessments within a larger land cover layer of Nebraska. The resulting outputs are being employed to create species specific spatial models for Nebraska, which identify key focus areas to implement management efforts with the goal of maximizing management benefits to grassland bird communities.
Since 2011, more than 5,000 avian point count surveys have been conducted on State Wildlife Management Areas, private properties enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters program, and road transects. Analysis of habitat factors influencing upland species and other obligate grassland birds indicates that the surrounding landscape strongly affects local habitat suitability. Thus, the success or failure of on the ground conservation efforts may be determined by the landscape context. The findings from this study are now being used by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to help direct pheasant management efforts in Nebraska.
Project WebsiteAvian Habitat Relationships
Principal Investigator(s)-Joseph J. Fontaine, NE CFWRU
-Erica K. Stuber
Graduate Student(s)-Nadya Mirochnitchenko, M.S.(2018)
-Christopher Jorgensen, M.S. (2012)
Project DurationJanuary 2010 - December 2018
Funding-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
-University of Nebraska- Lincoln UCARE Program