Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast

Science Center Objects

To inform conservation efforts for the Gulf Coast, USGS is developing a suite of decision support tools to provide explicit population and habitat objectives.

Network model for beach mice

Network model for beach mice

The Science Issue and Relevance: The success of Gulf of Mexico coastal restoration efforts hinges on partners developing a common vision for conservation. However, what it means to actually share a common vision has remained undefined. This project provides explicit population and habitat objectives that will drive the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation priorities across the Gulf Coast. To accomplish this, we are developing a suite of decision support tools using a mixture of geospatial datalayers, expert knowledge, quantitative data, and statistical models.

Methodologies for Addressing the Issue: We are developing maps of biological planning units (BPUs) across the Gulf Coast. We are also creating databases of target conservation species that are representative of each BPU, and population objectives for each species. Finally, we are developing spatially explicit statistical models that link these population objectives to habitat characteristics that could be considered in conservation and/or restoration efforts. For example, the Bayesian network model in Fig. 1 illustrates the ecological relationships thought to determine beach mice occupancy.

Predicted probability of occupancy by beach mice

Predicted probability of occupancy by beach mice

We are using the predictions from Bayesian network models (Fig. 1) to assess the effects of alternative management strategies across the Gulf Coast. An example of model output (Fig. 2) shows predicted probabilities that beach mice occupy areas on Perdido Key, FL, categorized by whether the area is protected (rows) and/or critical habitat (columns).