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Landbird trends in national parks of the North Coast and Cascades Network, 2005-12

September 29, 2014

National parks in the North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN) can fulfill vital roles as refuges for bird species dependent on late-successional forest conditions and as reference sites for assessing the effects of land-use and land-cover changes on bird populations throughout the larger Pacific Northwest region. Additionally, long-term monitoring of landbirds throughout the NCCN provides information that can inform decisions about important management issues in the parks, including visitor impacts, fire management, and the effects of introduced species. In 2005, the NCCN began implementing a network-wide Landbird Monitoring Project as part of the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program. In this report, we discuss 8-year trends (2005–12) of bird populations in the NCCN, based on a sampling framework of point counts established in three large wilderness parks (Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks), 7-year trends at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (sampled in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012), and 5-year trends at San Juan Islands National Historical Park (sampled in 2007, 2009, and 2011). Our analysis encompasses a fairly short time span for this long-term monitoring program. The first 2 years of the time series (2005 and 2006) were implemented as part of a limited pilot study that included only a small subset of the transects. The subsequent 6 years (2007–12) represent just a single cycle through 5 years of alternating panels of transects in the large parks, with the first of five alternating panels revisited for the first time in 2012. Of 204 transects that comprise the six sampling panels in the large parks, only 68 (one-third) have thus been eligible for revisit surveys (34 during every year after 2005, and an additional 34 only in 2012) and can contribute to our current trend estimates. We therefore initiated the current analysis with a primary goal of testing our analytical procedures rather than detecting trends that might be strong enough to drive conservation or management decisions in the parks or elsewhere. We expect that aggregated trend detection results may change substantially over the next several years, as the number of transects with revisit histories triples and the spatial dispersion of transects contributing to trend estimates also improves greatly. In the meantime, caution should be exercised in interpreting the importance of trends, as individual years can have very large influences on the direction and magnitude of trends in a time series of such limited duration (and limited numbers of repeat visits at the small parks). Nevertheless, we estimated trends for 43 species at Mount Rainier National Park, 53 species at North Cascades National Park Complex, and 41 species at Olympic National Park. Of 137 park-species combinations (including combined-park analyses), we found 16 significant decreases (12 percent) and five significant increases (4 percent).

We identify several limitations of the current analytical framework for trend assessment but suggest that the overall sampling design is strong and amenable to analysis by more recently developed model-based methods. These could provide a more flexible framework for examining trends and other population parameters of interest, as well as testing hypotheses that relate the distribution and abundance of species to environmental covariates. A model-based approach would allow for modeling various components of the detection process and analyzing observations (detection process), population state (occupancy, population size, density), and change (trend, local extinction and colonization rates turnover) simultaneously. Finally, we also evaluate operational aspects of NCCN Landbird Monitoring Project, and conclude that our robust, multi-party partnership is successfully implementing the project as it was envisioned.

Publication Year 2014
Title Landbird trends in national parks of the North Coast and Cascades Network, 2005-12
DOI 10.3133/ofr20141202
Authors James F. Saracco, Amanda L. Holmgren, Robert L. Wilkerson, Rodney B. Siegel, Robert C. Kuntz, Kurt J. Jenkins, Patricia J. Happe, John R. Boetsch, Mark H. Huff
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2014-1202
Index ID ofr20141202
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center