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

Nebraska Project

Ecological models and biodiversity conservation in Nebraska landscapes

August 2012 - December 2014


Participating Agencies

  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Biodiversity is increasingly threatened worldwide by an array of anthropogenic stressors, including increased human population density, habitat loss and fragmentation, overhunting and overfishing, biological invasions, and climate change. In the North American Great Plains, agricultural practices have converted grasslands and wetlands into cropland, increasing food and energy production, but decreasing wildlife habitat. As global food and bioenergy demands continue to rise, agricultural conversion and intensification continue. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project is a state wildlife action plan that aims at accomplishing the following objectives: 1. Reverse declines of at-risk species; 2. Recover species currently listed as state or federally threatened or endangered; 3. Keep common species common, and conserve natural communities. The plan identifies 39 Biologically Unique Landscape(s) (BUL) within Nebraska where conservation actions will be specifically targeted. A coarse filter/fine filter approach to conservation has been adopted in the plan, with the goal of benefiting the majority of species by managing at the community (coarse filter) level. Threatened species not encompassed by community-level management are then addressed specifically (fine filter). This project will develop distribution models for species and/or communities identified as conservation targets within Nebraska BULs, with the goal of integrating modeling into an adaptive management conservation framework for BUL-scale management. Expected products for BULs include habitat suitability ranks, assessments of functional connectivity for suitable habitat patches, baseline community area and species abundance estimates, identification of locations for focusing additional sampling and monitoring efforts, predicted community distributions and species abundances under an array of plausible management-based scenarios, evaluation of progress toward accomplishing established conservation objectives, and identification of suitable locations for the reintroduction of extirpated target species. Modeling techniques will be utilized according to data availability and their propriety for addressing specific research questions. Within an iterative framework, conservation objectives, management actions, and modeling techniques may be altered as additional information supporting adjustments is obtained.