This regional protocol provides a framework for quantifying the number of breeding pairs and productivity of Atlantic Coast piping plover (Charadrius melodus) populations during the breeding season. A primary purpose of this protocol is to standardize piping plover monitoring during the breeding season. The survey techniques described herein involve repeated visual counts of adults, nests, eggs, and chicks within a defined survey site (i.e., beach) as well as visual identification of potential threats to survival and productivity. Resulting data can be compiled and analyzed across multiple geographic units (i.e., sites, states, and recovery units) to assess progress toward recovery goals, inform local management decisions, assess management effectiveness, and improve monitoring efforts. This protocol framework was developed as part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Initiative in coordination with Ecological Services (ES) and state coordinators within the Southeast and Northeast Regions (4 and 5, respectively). Although this protocol framework is to be used primarily by NWRS to inform recovery goals, assist with local management decision-making, and meet State reporting requirements, the approach strives to assist monitoring efforts of nonNWRS partners, such as other federal agencies (e.g. National Park Service), State wildlife agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private landowners. This protocol framework and associated data management system (PIPLweb) aims to interface with existing data management and analysis tools (i.e., PIPLODES, NestStory, and PiperEx) to ensure that data collection is
efficient and comparable across scales, and supports management decisions across partners. The content and structure of the protocol framework follows standards set forth in the USFWS’s How to Develop Survey Protocols: A Handbook (Version 1.0; 2013). The eight elements addressed include: introduction, sampling design, field methods, data management and analysis, reporting, personnel requirements and training, operational requirements, and references. A series of standard operating procedures (SOPs) provides greater detail on recommended methods and technical aspects of this protocol. Data entry, archival, and multi-scale analysis are handled through a secure web application (Plover Inventory and Productivity Library; PIPLweb) developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). When management activities and survey objectives are similar across management units, partners (Refuges, other federal agencies, State, NGOs, private) are encouraged to use this protocol framework to develop stepped-down
site-specific survey protocols that include guidance for conducting on-the-ground monitoring and management plans.