Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Utah
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Utah Project

Avian species resilience to habitat degradation

July 2021 - December 2024


Participating Agencies

  • Utah Endangered Species Mitigation Fund
  • USU Agricultural Experiment Station, Public Lands Initiative

The alteration of landscapes due to changes in natural disturbance regimes, grazing cycles, development, pollution, and changing climate, has led to habitat degradation, the purported main driver of population declines generally. Facing ecosystem alteration and degradation on multiple fronts, practitioners struggle to strategically prioritize land management actions to minimize their impacts and maximize benefits to wildlife, keeping species off of the endangered and threatened species list, and maintaining functioning ecosystems.

It is currently unknown how populations respond to ecosystems’ vegetation departure (a proxy for habitat quality), and subsequently whether measures of departure can be used to assess wildlife health, or guide restoration activities meant to improve wildlife populations. Wildlife species, like vegetation communities, are somewhat resilient to environmental change, and may persist across a range of environmental conditions. In this project we propose to analyze the UT IMBCR 5-year monitoring data set in conjunction with citizen science observations from the eBird monitoring platform to assess the relationships between both population status of SGCNs and avian community composition, and vegetation-based ecological departure scores.