Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 405–418 | Cite as

Conservation of northern bobwhite on private lands in Georgia, USA under uncertainty about landscape-level habitat effects

  • Jay E. Howell
  • Clinton T. Moore
  • Michael J. Conroy
  • Richard G. Hamrick
  • Robert J. Cooper
  • Reggie E. Thackston
  • John P. Carroll
Research Article

Abstract

Large-scale habitat enhancement programs for birds are becoming more widespread, however, most lack monitoring to resolve uncertainties and enhance program impact over time. Georgia’s Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI) is a competitive, proposal-based system that provides incentives to landowners to establish habitat for northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus). Using data from monitoring conducted in the program’s first years (1999–2001), we developed alternative hierarchical models to predict bobwhite abundance in response to program habitat modifications on local and regional scales. Effects of habitat and habitat management on bobwhite population response varied among geographical scales, but high measurement variability rendered the specific nature of these scaled effects equivocal. Under some models, BQI had positive impact at both local farm scales (1, 9 km2), particularly when practice acres were clustered, whereas other credible models indicated that bird response did not depend on spatial arrangement of practices. Thus, uncertainty about landscape-level effects of management presents a challenge to program managers who must decide which proposals to accept. We demonstrate that optimal selection decisions can be made despite this uncertainty and that uncertainty can be reduced over time, with consequent improvement in management efficacy. However, such an adaptive approach to BQI program implementation would require the reestablishment of monitoring of bobwhite abundance, an effort for which funding was discontinued in 2002. For landscape-level conservation programs generally, our approach demonstrates the value in assessing multiple scales of impact of habitat modification programs, and it reveals the utility of addressing management uncertainty through multiple decision models and system monitoring.

Keywords

Adaptive management Colinus virginianus Habitat Hierarchical models Monitoring Northern bobwhite Uncertainty 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Data used in this research were collected with funding from the WRD through the BQI; additional support was provided by the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and McIntire-Stennis Projects GEO-0100-MS and GEO-0136-MS. Funding for spatial analysis and model development was provided by US Geological Survey through the Eastern Region State Partnership Program. The WRD provided logistical support for workshops and data assembly, and we specifically wish to acknowledge the assistance of C. D. Baumann of WRD. We thank J. R. Sauer, S. J. Converse, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful criticism of the manuscript. The Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is jointly sponsored by USGS, the University of Georgia, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Wildlife Management Institute. Use of trade or product names does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay E. Howell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Clinton T. Moore
    • 3
  • Michael J. Conroy
    • 4
  • Richard G. Hamrick
    • 5
    • 6
  • Robert J. Cooper
    • 7
  • Reggie E. Thackston
    • 8
  • John P. Carroll
    • 7
  1. 1.Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitWarnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Department of Game and Inland FisheriesRichmondUSA
  3. 3.USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterUS Geological Survey, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.USGS Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitWarnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, US Geological Survey and University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  5. 5.Warnell School of Forestry and Natural ResourcesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  6. 6.Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and ParksJacksonUSA
  7. 7.Warnell School of Forestry and Natural ResourcesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  8. 8.Wildlife Resources DivisionGeorgia Department of Natural ResourcesForsythUSA

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