A multi-species approach to manage effects of land cover and weather on upland game birds
Loss and degradation of grasslands in the Great Plains region has resulted in major declines in abundance of grassland bird species. To ensure future viability of grassland bird populations, it is crucial to evaluate specific effects of environmental factors among species to determine drivers of population decline and develop effective conservation strategies. We used threshold models to quantify effects of land cover and weather changes on lesser and greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus and T. cupido, respectively), northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus), and ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). We demonstrated a novel approach for estimating landscape conditions needed to optimize abundance across multiple species at a variety of spatial scales. Abundance of all four species was highest following wet summers and dry winters. Prairie-chicken and ring-necked pheasant abundance was highest following cool winters, while northern bobwhite abundance was highest following warm winters. Greater prairie-chicken and northern bobwhite abundance was also highest following cooler summers. Optimal abundance of each species occurred in landscapes that represented a grassland and cropland mosaic, though prairie-chicken abundance was optimized in landscapes with more grassland and less edge habitat than northern bobwhites and ring-necked pheasants. Because these effects differed among species, managing for an optimal landscape for multiple species may not be the optimal scenario for any one species.
Haukos, David; Schindler, Alexander; Hagen, Christian; Ross, Beth (2021), "A multi-species approach to manage effects of land cover and weather on upland game birds", Zenodo, doi: 10.5061/dryad.c59zw3r5w