Biodiversity Assessment: Tools and Applications
Improved quantitative methods are needed to improve our understanding of the distributions, status, and viability of animal populations and to assess and monitor changing habitat conditions.
Quantitative Methods to assess Population Status
How the abundance and distribution of animal populations change through time in response to management actions is one of the most common and challenging questions for researchers and managers. Reliable conclusions about relationships between populations and management actions are only possible if results of monitoring are credible and robust. Unit scientists have developed, and published, a wide variety of cost-effective and reliable methods to inventory and monitor vertebrate species. These have been adopted as standard methods, both nationally and internationally.
Using Forest Assessment and Planning Tools to Evaluate Wildlife Habitat
Forest managers and planners require quantitative comparisons of the effects of vegetation management on the status of habitat for sensitive species. Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) vegetation data is increasingly used for planning purposes and these, or other stand vegetation data, are entered into the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) to predict effects on timber volume or forest structural characteristics. Our work integrates plot-level vegetation data with FVS to estimate future habitat value using the relationship between species occurrence (or use of a habitat element) and vegetation variables. The development of FIA-based habitat models is financially efficient because the data used to produce new model outputs are made available each time new FIA data are collected, at no additional cost to the research program.
Long-term Monitoring Tools and Trend Analysis
Accurate and useful tools for monitoring long-term population and habitat trends are necessary to respond to existing and emerging threats to biodiversity, threatened species, and ecosystem function on our public lands. With proper design and analysis techniques, long-term monitoring of target species and landscapes can provide important insight into the responses of organisms and ecosystems to complex threats such as land-use change and climate change. Our experience with long-term datasets and protocol development help us work with resource managers to refine inventory and monitoring plans and develop management recommendations that are adaptable to changing environmental conditions and emerging threats.
Bioinformatics Applications in Wildlife Science
Effective conservation and management of wildlife requires knowledge of the distribution, abundance, and demography of individual species to evaluate alternative management scenarios. However, access to historic and current data is often hampered by an inadequate interface between field observations and the tools necessary to compile and view these data. We are developing tools using online software that federates these disparate data on wildlife occurrence and population status and puts them into a useful and accessible common format. These analytical tools allow users to access these valuable data and relate them to environmental and geographic data layers.