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Forest area to support landbird population goals for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

August 2, 2021

Historically, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) (Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Region #26) was predominantly bottomland hardwood forest, but natural vegetation has been cleared from about 80 percent of this ecoregion and converted primarily to agriculture. Because most bird species that are of conservation concern in this region are dependent on forested wetlands, bottomland hardwood forest is the habitat of greatest conservation concern in the MAV. Past conservation planning for forest-dwelling birds in this region has focused on habitat objectives with presumptions regarding bird population goals being met through habitat provision. To better define population objectives, we estimated current populations of silvicolous birds on the basis of detections during 10 years of North American Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS). For each species, we used their estimated population and historical (1966–2015) change in their relative abundance, as assessed from BBS data, to establish regional population goals. We used the variance associated with historical BBS trends to estimate the minimum forest area required to sustain greater than or equal to (≥) 25 breeding pairs, which we combined with predicted probability of occupancy to identify sustainable forested habitat. For 54 species, we used published empirical density estimates, as affected by forest management, to estimate the proportion of the population objective that could be provisioned within sustainable forest patches. The area of presumed population-sustaining habitat, under existing forest management, was sufficient to support the species’ population objective for 23 species. We estimated that the target populations of seven additional species (Black-and-white Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Cerulean Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Indigo Bunting, Wood Thrush, and Yellow-breasted Chat) could be supported by current forest area through widespread changes in forest management. Target populations of seven other species (American Robin, Barred Owl, Boat-tailed Grackle, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Mississippi Kite, and Red-headed Woodpecker) were accommodated within the MAV when populations in both forest and nonforest habitats are considered. For the remaining 20 species, we estimated the population increase needed to achieve their population goals. For these species, we estimated the additional area of forest restoration required to achieve their population goal within sustainable forest patches or, alternatively, the additional area of occupied habitat required to support their population goal within both forest and nonforest habitat. An additional 700,000 hectares of sustainable forest habitat may be enough to attain the forest-dependent population goals for most bird species within the MAV.

Publication Year 2021
Title Forest area to support landbird population goals for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201097
Authors Daniel J. Twedt, Anne Mini
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1097
Index ID ofr20201097
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center