Strategic Habitat Conservation for Brown Pelican

Science Center Objects

WARC researchers partnered with managers and species experts to develop a Bayesian network model and a geospatial habitat characteristics dataset to predict the number of Brown Pelican breeding pairs on islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services)

The Science Issue and Relevance: Gulf restoration programs increasingly fund management actions designed to meet species’ needs. However, there is uncertainty about the ability of these management actions to achieve population objectives. This makes it difficult for managers to establish habitat objectives and translate them into the actions necessary to meet population objectives. Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) are species of conservation concern that form breeding colonies on islands in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Northern Gulf of Mexico Biological Planning Units (BPU) (Fig. 1). Ten of the BPUs have Brown Pelican population objectives. Due to limited nesting habitat that is threatened by climate change as well as high desirability of these habitats by humans for infrastructure and recreation, conservation opportunities are limited and expensive. The project goal is to support strategic habitat conservation on the Gulf Coast by developing quantitative tools that can help establish Brown Pelican habitat objectives and the effort required to achieve them (i.e., management efficiency).

Brown Pelican model study area

Fig 1. Study area. Biological planning units are outlined in black. Potential breeding colony locations are in red.

 

 

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: We partnered with managers and species experts to develop a Bayesian network model and a geospatial habitat characteristics dataset to predict the number of Brown Pelican breeding pairs on islands in each of the 10 target BPUs. The results suggested that current habitat is insufficient to meet population objectives in four BPUs. We used the model to identify specific management actions on specific islands, and we simulated opportunistic or targeted management of those islands until the population objective was met.

Future Steps: The results will be used to support Brown Pelican adaptive management by enabling managers to prioritize actions and determine the most efficient ways to meet recovery objectives. A peer-reviewed journal article will provide a detailed project description and the products will be made publicly available on ScienceBase.