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

New York Project

The need for landscape scale abundance monitoring of avifauna in New York state

April 2023 - April 2025


Participating Agencies

  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Species extinctions have defined the current global biodiversity crisis; however, extinctions begin with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in a loss of ecosystem function. Recent estimates in North America suggest a net loss of 3 billion birds since 1970, with many of including once “common” species (Rosenberg et al. 2019). This empirically demonstrated loss of bird abundance across the U.S. including New York (NY) signals an urgent demand to install robust abundance monitoring programs at the state level enabling the creation of management threshold criteria in order to avert future avifaunal collapse and associated loss of ecosystem integrity.Estimating the abundance or density of populations and how they change over time is important for their management and ultimately the conservation of species and biodiversity. Due to increasing doubt over reliability and accuracy, methods of monitoring have moved away from long relied on uncorrected indices in favour of methods like occupancy and abundance estimation which account for imperfect detection. Currently categorizations of species as rare and common are relative to one another, and due to this relative scale and shifting baseline syndrome (Soga & Gaston, 2018), this approach fails to accurately quantify or monitor actual changes in numbers of individuals of any species over meaningful timescales. Understanding change over time is important especially given the rapid pace of climate change affecting ecosystems (e.g. tree species composition and distribution. The longstanding goal of the DEC of implementing a comprehensive state-wide monitoring program for NY’s species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) has remained unmet (NYSDEC, 2015), although progress has been made for certain populations and habitats. DEC currently has programs in place to monitor some important avifauna groups such as marsh birds and colonial waterbirds but lacks critical knowledge of population trends of many vulnerable species that live in the state’s most important and declining habitats for SGCN including coastal saltmarsh, grasslands/shrublands, and forests. We will implement a two-part state-wide monitoring program.