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Alaska landbird montoring survey: Alaska regional protocol framework for monitoring landbirds using point counts

May 31, 2021

Alaska provides habitat for 143 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. The road-based North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) provides some data on population trends in Alaska, but most northern populations are inadequately monitored by this program because of a paucity of roads. To remedy this deficiency, Boreal Partners in Flight developed the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey (ALMS) to monitor breeding populations of landbirds in off-road areas of Alaska in tandem with data collected from the roadside BBS. The primary objective of ALMS is to monitor long-term population trends of landbirds and other species that can be monitored by diurnal point counts during the breeding season, including many shorebirds and aquatic birds. A secondary objective is to estimate landbird densities by habitat, which can be used to model avian distribution and abundance across Alaska. ALMS is a collaborative program whereby agencies and other entities conduct standardized surveys of breeding birds and their habitats on the lands they manage and then contribute the data to the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center for storage and analysis.

The short-term implementation goal of ALMS is to monitor birds systematically within each of 100 randomly selected survey blocks, thereby matching the number of BBS surveys conducted in each of Alaska's five Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). Each block has a mini-grid of 15−25 points that are surveyed biennially, with half of the blocks surveyed in alternating years. Survey blocks are stratified by accessibility and cost-effectiveness. Refuges may opt to limit sites to those accessible by foot, vehicle, boat, or fixed-wing aircraft, as these can be surveyed more inexpensively and reliably over time. Observers survey each point within a survey block for birds using a 10-min point count once per summer on a biennial basis. They collect corresponding habitat data during the first visit and at subsequent 10-year intervals or whenever a disturbance (e.g., fire, wind) has caused a significant change. USGS analyzes ALMS data jointly with BBS data to test for differences between off-road and roadside areas and to increase power to detect statewide trends. Additional blocks can be surveyed in areas that are more difficult and expensive to access as resources become available in the future. Long-term monitoring enables detection of change in bird populations in relation to fire, disease and insect damage, resource development, climate-related change, and other landscape-level disturbances across Alaska. Results from ALMS can also help prioritize conservation and research towards species before they become endangered and require expensive recovery programs.

Publication Year 2021
Title Alaska landbird montoring survey: Alaska regional protocol framework for monitoring landbirds using point counts
Authors Colleen M. Handel, Steven M. Matsuoka, Melissa N. Cady, Diane A. Granfors
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Regional Protocol Framework
Index ID 70223180
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB