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Trends and a Targeted Annual Warning System for Greater Sage-Grouse in the Western United States (1960-2021)

December 30, 2022

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are at the center of state and national land use policies largely because of their unique life-history traits as an ecological indicator for health of sagebrush ecosystems. These data represent an updated population trend analysis and Targeted Annual Warning System (TAWS) for state and federal land and wildlife managers to use best-available science to help guide current management and conservation plans aimed at benefitting sage-grouse populations range-wide. First, this analysis relied on previously published population trend modeling methodology from Coates and others (2021) and includes the addition of three analytical updates: (1) identification of population nadirs (low points) at the lek (breeding ground) and neighborhood cluster (group of leks) spatial scales, (2) truncation of prior distributions on rate of change in apparent abundance values to more realistic boundaries for leks with missing data, and (3) addition of 2 years of population lek count data (2020 and 2021) to the current dataset (1953-2021). Bayesian state-space models estimated 2.9 percent average annual decline in sage-grouse populations across their geographical range, which varied among subpopulations at the largest scale of analysis, termed climate clusters (2.2-4.6). Cumulative declines were 42.5, 65.6, and 80.1 percent range-wide across short (19 years), medium (35 years), and long (55 years) temporal periods, respectively. These results indicate that range-wide populations continued to decline during 2020 and 2021, although two climate clusters (Eastern Range and Bi-State) have shown growth in population abundance in recent years, indicating they have surpassed a recent population abundance nadir. We provided trend estimates across different temporal periods for each neighborhood cluster and climate cluster across sage-grouse range. Furthermore, understanding whether variation in abundance is associated with environmental stochasticity or anthropogenic disturbances, which are more amenable to management action, is crucial yet difficult to achieve. We also present updated results (2021) to the TAWS which models rates of change in abundance from spatially structured populations and identifies when local declines fall out of synchrony with trends at larger spatial scales. The TAWS framework provides signals that alert managers to the categorical significance of observed declines while avoiding signals where declines result from drivers operating at larger spatial scales (e.g., periodic reductions in primary productivity owing to drought).

Coates, P.S., Prochazka, B.G., O’Donnell, M.S., Aldridge, C.L., Edmunds, D.R., Monroe, A.P., Ricca, M.A., Wann, G.T., Hanser, S.E., Wiechman, L.A., and Chenaille, M.P., 2021, Range-wide greater sage-grouse hierarchical monitoring framework-Implications for defining population boundaries, trend estimation, and a targeted annual warning system: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020-1154, 243 p.,

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Trends and a Targeted Annual Warning System for Greater Sage-Grouse in the Western United States (1960-2021)
DOI 10.5066/P9OQWGIV
Authors Peter S Coates, Brian G Prochazka, Cameron Aldridge, Michael O'Donnell, David R Edmunds, Adrian P Monroe, Steve Hanser, Lief A Wiechman, Michael P Chenaille
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center

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