Linking waterfowl distribution and abundance to spatial and
July 2013 - June 2016
- Missouri Department of Conservation
MDC is in the initial stages of revising the 1989 Wetland Plan, which will provide a model-based, adaptive framework to guide habitat, population, and public-use decisions focused on wetland habitat and wetland dependent species. A hierarchical model consisting of three layers will be developed to express the state of our current understanding of wetland systems and the resources they provide to wetland-dependent species (i.e., waterfowl, shorebirds, marsh birds, fish and amphibians). These layers include: 1) A hydro-geomorphic model (HGM) to characterize landscape features that contribute to existing wetland habitats and plant communities, 2) models that link habitat conditions to life history needs of wetland-dependent wildlife species, and 3) models linking public use to both the management of wetland habitats and wetland-dependent species. These models will provide the framework from which predictions can be made and evaluated about management and planning decisions. Successful implementation of the Wetland Plan will require development of monitoring tools that enable managers to determine if predictions are correct, if objectives are being achieved, and if model assumptions are accurate. In regards to waterfowl, the Missouri wetland plan will step down Joint Venture goals and objectives to help accomplish North American Waterfowl Management Plan goals and objectives. The 2007 North American Waterfowl Management Plan Assessment noted that while over $2 billion had been spent to fulfill NAWMP objectives, little work had been done to determine if habitat protection, management and restoration were leading to desired population responses (NAWMP Assessment Steering Committee 2007). In an effort to develop better performance metrics, the NAWMP National Science Support Team (NSST) recommended Joint Ventures develop conceptual models to describe how habitat management actions influence vital rates, adopt the annual life cycle model to identify what life history needs should be targeted in different regions, and frame accomplishments in terms of changes in demographic parameters (NSST Alternative Performance Metrics Subcommittee 2008). More specifically, they recommended that JVs should develop monitoring programs to track the direct influence of their management actions on the quality and quantity of refuge areas and food resources. In this project, we focus on addressing the NAWMP NSST recommendations by developing a waterfowl monitoring methodology that includes measuring waterfowl abundance and distribution, a method to assess annual habitat distribution, abundance, and availability, and an energetics model to assess performance of Missouri’s private and public wetlands in meeting life history needs of waterfowl, namely their energetic needs. Based on the annual life cycle model, the three Joint Ventures that bisect Missouri all suggest that during the nonbreeding season energy is the key resource needed to ensure waterfowl arrive on the breeding grounds in good condition. To accomplish this task, MDC will need to reassess current waterfowl monitoring methods, develop new methods to assess forage quantity and availability, and modify existing energetic models to determine if predicted patterns of forage supply and waterfowl demand meet current assumptions driving management activities.