Strategies for identifying priority areas for songbird conservation in Canada's boreal forest
We conducted an analysis using data from 63 species of songbirds to identify priority areas within the boreal forest where conservation efforts could be focused to maximize the conservation of either species diversity or species density. Our analyses included numerous scenarios to evaluate the influence of variables such as the level of anthropogenic disturbance, the level of conservation concern for each species, geographic stratification (e.g., analyses at the scale of the boreal or within a Bird Conservation Region) and climate change. Given the large and low-density distributions of boreal songbirds, as well as the predominantly intact condition of boreal habitats, we did not identify universal conservation hotspots across the scenarios considered. However, when all scenarios were combined, some consistent high-value areas did emerge, which may be considered as general candidates for implementation of conservation action. Major differences in the identification of priority areas were driven by factors such as disturbance and climate change, as well as choices regarding prioritization scenario and geographic stratification. This highlights the importance of establishing clear, a priori objectives at the outset of a conservation planning exercise, and using these to guide the interpretation of results and identification of conservation priorities and management strategies. For a given set of criteria, our scenario results can cautiously be used to inform a variety of broad-scale conservation and management efforts, from protected areas planning to species-at risk recovery to restoration and monitoring.
Evaluation conservation plans in the Canadian boreal region
BAM developed species distribution models for boreal songbirds in Canada and Alaska, using climate, productivity and landcover as explanatory variables. The model results are predictive maps of relative occupancy rates or densities for more than 100 songbird species. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) has identified several of these species as being of conservation priority within managed forest lands. BAM's maps of these species are being used to assess conservation effectiveness of the existing protected areas network within the Canadian boreal region, and as design criteria for potential solutions that would improve and complete the existing network. This analysis was conducted for the CBFA by the Canadian Boreal Ecosystems Analysis for Conservation Networks (BEACONs) project.
Identifying priority areas for avian conservation
Detailed modelling conducted by Environment Canada, making use of BAM data and Marxan models, determined that the type of and resolution (scale) of input data influences the identification of priority areas for forest birds. When the species range was used, the selected areas for conservation were clustered at the edges of the BCR. When habitat suitability was used as the input data, the model identified smaller, discontinuous areas throughout the BCR as important for conservation. Current efforts are evaluating the use of finer-resolution habitat data. This study will show how priority conservation areas, within a large, multi-jurisdictional BCR, can be determined using available data on land cover, species distributions, and species habitat associations.
Gap analysis of protected areas with respect to representation of forest tree species
BAM has invested significant efforts to develop a standardised collection of digital forest resource inventory (FRI) data. The collection now covers almost all of Canada where such data exist. This dataset was intended to support development of avian habitat models that could be directly linked to forest management activities. The dataset has many other possible uses, because FRI data identify the tree species that are present in forest patches at much greater precision than any other existing data product. In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, we have used these maps to assess how well the existing network of protected areas represents tree species.