Adaptively managing seabird habitat on the Oregon Coast Refuge Complex
September 2021 - June 2026
- USFWS Western Region
The Oregon Coast hosts a diverse suite of seabirds that provide a wide range of ecological, economic, and culturally important services such as ecotourism for local communities, bringing marine derived nutrients to terrestrial habitats, and serving as biological indicators of ocean conditions. Many seabird populations, including the iconic tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), have significantly declined along the Oregon Coast over the past few decades. Oregon Islands, Three Arch Rocks, and Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuges are designated National Wilderness Areas set aside in part to promote the protection, stewardship, and enjoyment of Oregon’s seabird populations and their habitats in perpetuity. Currently, baseline monitoring data to support the adaptive management of seabirds and seabird habitat is sparse. Managers have little to no knowledge regarding how seabird habitat has changed over the last few decades, inadequate information about what characteristics constitute suitable habitat for some burrow-nesting seabirds, and are facing a lack of reliable baseline information on burrow occupancy and habitat use. The proposed research directly addresses these knowledge gaps by investigating the specific habitat requirements of tufted puffin, establishing a baseline of vegetative habitat dynamics, and developing a structured decision-making model. Assessing how suitable seabird breeding habitat characteristics have changed over time will provide necessary information to guide refuge managers in habitat restoration and support adaptive management decisions.