The Prairie and Parkland Marsh Monitoring Program 2012-2013

Final Project Report: The Prairie and Parkland Marsh Monitoring Program, 2012-2013

Goals and Objectives

The overall aim of this project is to link the occurrence of wetland-associated migratory birds to habitat characteristics
at varying levels of spatial scale (i.e. marsh-specific to landscape-level habitat attributes) with the goal being to develop
spatially-explicit Decision Support System (DSS) models that will serve efforts to conserve and manage habitats for
wetland-associated birds within the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture (PHN) delivery area. Information deficiencies on species
distribution and species-habitat associations currently limit the PHJV in its ability to set habitat conservation and bird
population objectives for water birds. As well, there also exists a strong need to develop and implement evaluative and
targeted monitoring of wetland-associated birds and the habitats that they use. Habitat-based work during the current
phase of this program is providing region-wide information that: (1) is being used to develop tools (i.e. species-habitat
models) to predict the occurrence and distribution of wetland-associated birds, (2) will provide a means to investigate
the value of current NAWMP conservation programs to waterbirds and other wetland-associated birds, (3) is being used
to make assessments about survey protocols and long-term delivery options, (4) will benefit efforts to set PHJV bird
population and habitat objectives, and (5) will be used to develop a long-term, trend-based waterbird monitoring program
for the PHJV area.

Wildlife Habitat Canada’s progenitorial support enabled Bird Studies Canada to initiate and complete Phase 1 of the Prairie &
Parkland Marsh Monitoring Program (PPMMP). The effort during Phase 1 necessarily focused on examining technical and
administrative issues of developing the program framework and the implementing plan, and culminated with the completion of
a successful pilot study at sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan (May- July 2008). During fiscal year 2009/10, the PPMMP
began Phase 2: PHN-wide implementation of a habita-based waterbird monitoring program.

The work proposed here is a continuance of Phase 2, i.e. enhanced spatial and temporal replication by continuing field-based
sampling during spring and summers 2012; and during fall and winters 2012-2013, continue with model development and validation, and making methodological assessments that relate to delivering long-term monitoring. It is widely recognized that the habitat-based work during this phase of the program will provide information that will be invaluable to the future development (both program design and delivery mechanisms) of evaluative and targeted monitoring of waterbirds in Canada.

The goals of this project are:

1) Gather geographically- extensive and statistically-robust information that will permit assessments of species-habitat relationships and spatial variation in water bird distribution for the PHJV delivery area.

2) Advance the development of spatially-explicit DSS models that will serve the PHJV in its efforts to conserve and manage habitats for water birds.

3) Make recommendations on sample size and delivery strategies for implementing a long-term monitoring program to begin
implementation in 2013.


March 2012-September 2013:  Expand the spatial extent of sampling to sites that have yet to be surveyed and achieve a balance between spatial and temporal replication by using GIS for random selection of wetlands to sample, initiate site visits to ground truthstudy sites & establish survey stations, conduct fieldwork at multiple study sites, data entry, data proofing/verification and QA/QC.

October 2012-March 2013: Continue model development; validate first-generation predictive models with data collected during 2012 field-based sampling.

March 2013: Produce report on using automated sound recorders to survey for wetland associated birds.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

The PHN, and other Joint Ventures, have asserted that their programs are benefiting birds other than waterfowl, but habitat conservation projects are not systematically designed with this objective in mind, nor have they been evaluated in this regard. The PHJV is committed to the concept of incorporating all­ bird conservation into their planning and evaluation framework, but current data deficiencies impede this goal. The PPMMP is providing essential information for developing DSS models for waterbirds within the PHJV delivery area. The PHN senses that they must do this in order to continue to satisfy the interests of their U.S. funders to maintain their waterfowl and wetland programs. The framework of these DSS models will be transferable to other Joint Ventures. The proposed work addresses information needs for several species yet it is impossible to determine the number of individual birds that will benefit from the project. Frankly, we (the profession) do not have reliable population estimates for most species of wetland-associated birds. Data from this project should permit estimation of population size within the PHJV area for several data-deficient species; this would be a first.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

This project is specifically aimed to improve conservation-related decision making at the Joint Venture­ level; the agencies that will benefit from the project include but are not limited to: Canadian Wildlife Service/Environment Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, Manitoba Conservation, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, and Saskatchewan Environment. An evaluation and performance of the PHN noted that more attention need be directed to waterbirds other than waterfowl; the project directly addresses this priority. The information that emanates from this project will directly influence habitat conservation planning and management by enabling the development of spatially-explicit DSS models for waterbirds with the PHN delivery area.

Project Location

This project will take place at multiple sites throughout the PHN delivery area to ensure that sampling is representative of the major biomes within the region. The majority of land within these study sites is privately-owned, so access to migratory bird hunting is controlled by landowner discretion; in Prairie Canada, most landowner permit access to hunters of migratory birds.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Kiel Drake, Biologist and Program Manager, Bird Studies Canada. Saskatoon, SK.