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Decision-support framework for linking regional-scale management actions to continental-scale conservation of wide-ranging species

November 9, 2021

Anas acuta (Northern pintail; hereafter pintail) was selected as a model species on which to base a decision-support framework linking regional actions to continental-scale population and harvest objectives. This framework was then used to engage stakeholders, such as Landscape Conservation Cooperatives’ (LCCs’) habitat management partners within areas of importance to pintails, while maximizing cross-taxa effects from the framework. The mathematical framework for the model had been previously developed for pintails. A key assumption incorporated into the model is that density dependence in survival occurs during the post-hunting (winter) period, where resources are hypothesized to be limiting. Because few data are available to directly inform this process, the approach used was to build a hierarchical Bayesian integrated population model (IPM) that simultaneously uses data from bird-band recoveries, breeding population counts, and harvest surveys to estimate values of parameters of an annual population projection model, including population size, survival rate, reproductive rate, and process and observation error variances, that are logically consistent with each other, given the mathematical structure imposed through the IPM.

The main accomplishments of this study are (1) development of an IPM for pintail to guide harvest and habitat management, (2) development of a Prairie Parkland Region breeding submodel to predict pintail productivity, (3) development of statistical methodology to estimate pintail productivity (as measured by the ratio of juvenile to adults in hunter-collected wing samples) and winter survival and to relate these estimates to covariates, and (4) illustration of how to use a model and estimated parameter values to predict pintail population size and sustainable harvest as a function of habitat.

Estimation of pintail survival from bird-banding data shows that there has been relatively little variation in survival over the period 1960–2013. A productivity model showed strong effects of breeding ground conditions, wintering-ground precipitation, and density dependence on pintail productivity. Thus, most temporal variation in pintail demographic rates has been due to effects on reproduction and not survival, including effects of breeding or wintering-ground habitat. These results indicate that habitat conservation efforts may be most effective if they focus on maintaining or increasing breeding and wintering-ground habitat to increase pintail productivity rather than pintail survival. Environmental perturbations in excess of historical experience, such as what could occur under climate change, might have meaningful effects on survival but cannot be estimated with current data. Direct effects of climate, land use, or management are likely to be greater on productivity than survival, but substantial uncertainty remains about predictions of equilibrium population size and sustainable yield.

Publication Year 2021
Title Decision-support framework for linking regional-scale management actions to continental-scale conservation of wide-ranging species
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201084
Authors Erik E. Osnas, G. Scott Boomer, James H. Devries, Michael C. Runge
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1084
Index ID ofr20201084
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center