Conservation Planning involves identifying priority species for conservation efforts, assessing the status of species populations and threats to their sustainability, and identifying the location and amounts of habitat required to sustain populations at desired levels.
Priority bird species have been identified for each Bird Conservation Region (BCR) and each of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) programs, including Partners in Flight, Waterbird Conservation for the Americas, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan and the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, have set range-wide (and in some cases BCR-scale) population goals for those species. Joint Ventures are responsible for determining how much habitat will be needed to reach the population goals and where, within their boundaries, to focus habitat restoration/protection (Fitzgerald and Nigh). Conservation design is the method used to determine where and how much habitat is required and can be successfully obtained or managed.
Conservation Design requires:
1. An assessment of current habitat conditions
and potential threats to habitat, including an estimate of how conditions
compare with a landscape’s ecological potential. Our landscape
assessments are framed within a hierarchy
of ecologically similar units.
2. An evaluation of bird-habitat relationships
and current bird distributions in relation to land use and land cover.
3. A determination of where on the landscape sufficient
amounts of habitat of the required types can be protected or restored
to support bird population objectives.
4. An assessment of ownership patterns and trends
in land use to determine where conservation actions can be implemented
with the greatest probability of success.
5. Monitoring and evaluation to determine whether
populations are responding to conservation efforts as assumed during
the planning process.
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is typically used for conservation design. Digital data from various sources and at various spatial scales are incorporated into GIS data layers, which are then used to show the geographic relationship between different factors that can influence conservation decisions. For example, land use and land cover can be shown in relationship to socio-economic patterns to determine where habitat restoration efforts could have the greatest acceptance and chance of success.
In addition to helping conservation planners visualize patterns across vast areas, GIS analysts and spatial modelers can also manipulate the data layers in the GIS to predict how birds will respond to different management regimes and land-use scenarios. This allows outcomes to be visualized before time and money are spent putting habitat on the ground.