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September 1, 2021

Alaska, where four major migratory flyways converge, hosts a diverse array of globally important avian habitats, ranging from towering rainforests to treeless tundra. USGS scientists recently led two teams of experts to produce key documents to help conserve Alaska’s similarly diverse landbird populations: the Alaska Landbird Conservation Plan and the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey Protocol.

Landbirds make up the largest and most ecologically diverse component of Alaska’s avifauna. Alaska provides habitat for >140 species of landbirds that occur regularly in the state, about half of which breed predominantly north of the border between the contiguous United States and Canada. Boreal forest birds have suffered some of the steepest declines among all North American birds during the past half-century, with an estimated 33% of their total population, or 500 million birds, lost since 1970.

Boreal Partners in Flight, the official Alaska working group of the international Partners in Flight program, has been working in concert with Canadian colleagues to help conserve landbird populations across boreal and Arctic regions of North America. Alaska comprises five large Bird Conservation Regions, designated as part of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative to provide a framework for coordinated conservation among federal and state agencies. A team of experts from Boreal Partners in Flight recently collaborated to update the Alaska Landbird Conservation Plan, which includes a comprehensive synthesis of the current knowledge, priorities, threats, and potential strategies for research, monitoring, management, and conservation at a statewide level and for each of the five Bird Conservation Regions within the state.

The Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey (ALMS) is a highly collaborative monitoring program created in 2003 by the USGS Alaska Science Center in cooperation with Boreal Partners in Flight to monitor breeding bird populations across the vast roadless area of Alaska. This program helps prioritize conservation and research towards species before they become endangered and require expensive recovery programs. Long-term monitoring will enable analysis of change in bird populations in relation to fire, disease and insect damage, resource development, climate-related change, and other landscape-level disturbances.

These programs and updated publications depend on numerous organizations and individuals. Major partners include U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Audubon Alaska, Alaska Natural Heritage Program, and other organizations.

USGS led a collaborative effort to produce a comprehensive revision of the Alaska Landbird Conservation Plan and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publish the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey Protocol.

Published 2021: Alaska Landbird Conservation Plan, version 2.0 (13,079 KB PDF)

  • USGS Alaska Science Center scientists Colleen Handel and Steve Matsuoka, along with Iain Stenhouse of the Biodiversity Research Institute, led a team of 21 coauthors in writing an in-depth revision of the Alaska Landbird Conservation Plan. This version documents the considerable advances in knowledge concerning Alaska’s landbirds since the first version was published in 1999.
  • This comprehensive plan is designed to provide research biologists, land managers, and natural resource decision-makers with a synthesis of issues and potential actions for the management and conservation of landbirds in Alaska. It is also intended to help identify critical information gaps and coordinate the collection of data on landbirds among state, federal, and international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions.

Published 2021: Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey protocol (3,414 KB PDF)

  • USGS Alaska Science Center scientists Colleen Handel and Steve Matsuoka and USFWS biologists Melissa Cady and Diane Granfors have published the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey protocol, a tool designed to monitor long-term trends of landbird populations breeding across the vast roadless areas of National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands in Alaska.
  • This standardized regional framework specifies methodology for implementing 10-minute point counts on a randomly selected sample of minigrids. Surveys are replicated biennially, once per breeding season, with bird detections recorded in time and distance intervals so that detection probability can be estimated. The protocol has been designed so data can be analyzed jointly with the roadside North American Breeding Bird Survey to estimate long-term population trends. The standardized data are also used to model distributional patterns of birds relative to habitat and other important physical and ecological features.

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