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Monday, January 29 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
SYMPOSIA-04: The Bird-Friendliness Index: A Novel Metric for Quantifying the Success of Conservation Programs

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AUTHORS. Chad Wilsey, Nicole Michel, Curtis Burkhalter, Brian Trusty, Gary Langham - National Audubon Society

ABSTRACT. Over the past forty years, grassland birds in North America have experienced stronger population declines than any other avian guild. From 2008 to 2011, nearly 10 million hectares was converted from grasslands to agriculture in the United States alone. Because 85% of grassland bird habitat is in private hands, the National Audubon Society has developed the Conservation Ranching Initiative, partnering with ranchers to implement management strategies that benefit grassland birds. In order to evaluate the success of our joint efforts, we developed a novel metric to evaluate grassland bird community response to ranching management practices, the Bird-Friendliness Index. The Bird-Friendliness Index was designed to incorporate the full suite of species-specific responses to management actions, and be flexible enough to work across broad climatic, land cover, and bird community gradients (i.e., grasslands from northern Mexico through Canada). The Bird-Friendliness Index consists of four components: density estimates of grassland and aridland birds; weighting based on conservation need; a functional evenness metric to incorporate resiliency of bird communities and their ecosystems; and a standardized scoring system to control for interannual variation caused by external factors, e.g., climate. We present an analysis of bird-friendliness of conservation ranches as well as private and public lands across the Northern Great Plains region of the United States using the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions dataset. We will demonstrate how this metric enables us to evaluate the impacts of conservation efforts on grassland birds, and how it can be adapted for use in a variety of systems.

Monday January 29, 2018 3:40pm - 4:00pm CST