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Combined analysis of roadside and off-road breeding bird survey data to assess population change in Alaska

August 20, 2017

Management interest in North American birds has increasingly focused on species that breed in Alaska, USA, and Canada, where habitats are changing rapidly in response to climatic and anthropogenic factors. We used a series of hierarchical models to estimate rates of population change in 2 forested Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs) in Alaska based on data from the roadside North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey, which samples off-road areas on public resource lands. We estimated long-term (1993–2015) population trends for 84 bird species from the BBS and short-term (2003–2015) trends for 31 species from both surveys. Among the 84 species with long-term estimates, 11 had positive trends and 17 had negative trends in 1 or both BCRs; negative trends were primarily found among aerial insectivores and wetland-associated species, confirming range-wide negative continental trends for many of these birds. Three species with negative trends in the contiguous United States and southern Canada had positive trends in Alaska, suggesting different population dynamics at the northern edges of their ranges. Regional population trends within Alaska differed for several species, particularly those represented by different subspecies in the 2 BCRs, which are separated by rugged, glaciated mountain ranges. Analysis of the roadside and off-road data in a joint hierarchical model with shared parameters resulted in improved precision of trend estimates and suggested a roadside-related difference in underlying population trends for several species, particularly within the Northwestern Interior Forest BCR. The combined analysis highlights the importance of considering population structure, physiographic barriers, and spatial heterogeneity in habitat change when assessing patterns of population change across a landscape as broad as Alaska. Combined analysis of roadside and off-road survey data in a hierarchical framework may be particularly useful for evaluating patterns of population change in relatively undeveloped regions with sparse roadside BBS coverage.

Publication Year 2017
Title Combined analysis of roadside and off-road breeding bird survey data to assess population change in Alaska
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-17-67.1
Authors Colleen M. Handel, John R. Sauer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Index ID 70190227
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB