Decision Support Tools for the Columbia Basin from the BC Breeding Bird Atlas Final Report Project # W-F14-18

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1 Decision Support Tools for the Columbia Basin from the BC Breeding Bird Atlas Final Report Project # W-F14-18 Prepared by Bird Studies Canada with financial support of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders Prepared for Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program

2 Executive Summary The project has progressed well with its objectives mapping and data processing, dissemination tool and volunteer engagement objectives in by; i) finalising the freely available database and generating final map products for BC species, including new distribution maps for all species and probability of observation maps for a ~227 species. ii) established a team of 18 lead authors, 4 editors, guidelines, editorial processes and support systems for completing the 321 species accounts; iii) developed new website and web tools to display Atlas results; iv) involved >40 volunteers to help with data review, authorship and editing, and developed a library of donated photographs from 40+ photographers, making this project one of the province s largest volunteer/partnership initiatives, and harnessing an enormous volunteer in-kind contribution. The Atlas database, comprising over half a million records has been completely peerreviewed by a data review committee (led by the project coordinator and including several volunteers). This database includes 142 compatible external datasets made available in-kind by special contributors, including contributed datasets from the region (including BC Hydro, environmental consultants, and Parks Canada datasets). The data and a series of tools are available both through the new Atlas website at and the Naturecounts website Introduction Breeding Bird Atlases are a globally important tool for monitoring and conservation, which generate strong and lasting partnerships, bringing diverse groups together to achieve conservation goals beyond the capacity of individual agencies. The BC Breeding Bird Atlas is a broad based partnership that unites and educates the wildlife watching community with wildlife management agencies, industry, academia, professional biologists and responsible outdoor user groups in a common stewardship goal. Detailed status information that the project is generating already supports conservation of a wide range of breeding birds in British Columbia, and better informs management of harvested populations and species at risk, guiding preventative conservation action to keep common species common, and habitat conservation project priorities. The final products of this project will complete a benchmark information source for the wildlife management and wildlife viewing communities for many years to come. The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia (www.birdatlas.bc.ca) (hereafter the Atlas ) is a volunteer-based, province-wide conservation initiative that has engaged >60 partner agencies, companies and organizations, and >1,260 citizen scientists, over the five year period of field data collection ( ). The Atlas Steering Committee is guiding the publication process, and has developed a plan and timeline that delivered an online publication soft-launch in December 2014 projecting a full launch in April 2015.

3 Goals and Objectives Our goal for the first stage of the Atlas was, over the course of the five field seasons ( ) of this project, to engage the broad environmental and outdoor communities in the Columbia Basin to deliver increased scientific understanding of the distribution and abundance of breeding birds and their habitats in the region. We have achieved this through training local naturalist volunteers and recruiting local biologists to conduct standard distribution and abundance point-count surveys within the Columbia Basin region over the duration of the project. We worked with a range of different groups (consultancies, government agencies and non-profits) to integrate their datasets, to ensure that Atlas dataset as comprehensive as possible, and ensure the Atlas dataset contributes to the Columbia Basin Biodiversity Atlas Project. We are progressing well on the second major goal of the Atlas project to produce webaccessible publication products and data. The Atlas has collected the most comprehensive current information base on bird distribution and abundance across the province and these products are informing population conservation and management, species at risk assessment and recovery, and guiding both preventative conservation action to keep common species common, and habitat conservation project priorities. The Atlas Steering Committee is guiding the publication process, and has prioritized web publication over printed publication, in order to get the basic products out as quickly as possible for the conservation community to use. Those products include: the entire, finalized Atlas database, shared with the provincial, federal, and local databases; a new website; distribution, probability of detection maps and summary ( word) accounts of the key Atlas findings for all 321 breeding bird species in British Columbia, landscape associations, including conservation recommendations and changes since the Birds of B.C. was published. Maps have been generated for all species in B.C. These include final distribution maps for all 346 species/ taxa listed as possible or confirmed breeding species in B.C, providing updated range information across the province and Probability of Observation maps. The Atlas Committee has decided to use a Probability of Observation model using all Atlas data to develop maps (as a surrogate to an index of abundance) instead of modeling species-habitat associations. This is due to issues with obtaining fineresolution habitat information across the province and the reduced utility of such habitat associations. The probability of observation model incorporates slope, aspect, latitude and longitude, and elevation (essentially the factors that determine habitat, and for which data are available at a much finer scale) for approximately 227 of the ~346 species/ taxa recorded during the field survey period. Rather than providing habitat descriptions, these Probability of Observation maps are innovative and completely new to B.C. They illustrate the most geographically extensive, accurate (based on expert review) and visually informative index of abundance predictions. They

4 are also provided at a finer scale than any previous mapping products, which will be of considerably more applied value to conservation practitioners. The new provincial map for Williamson s Sapsucker (Federally and Provincially Endangered), which is thinly distributed in south-eastern British Columbia, demonstrates

5 the importance of the Columbia Basin for its survival in the province (Distribution map, top; Probability of Detection map, bottom). These maps and previous iterations have already been used in conservation planning and priority setting (for example, re-assessment of species status at the provincial level), and have garnered a lot of attention from initial online soft-launch, airings at presentations, on posters, and advertising the conservation potential of the Atlas. Volunteers and professional biologists and managers are very excited to see these products, and several ideas for specific applied projects are being explored, such as conservation habitat mapping and planning on the south-west coast of BC. The mapping team had experienced some capacity issues beyond the BC Atlas project s control, and consequently we do not anticipate having all final Probability of Observation maps ready until February 2015 (March 2014 was our original target). At this time, we have completed >95% of the Probability maps, with only a few more adjustments needed to the model to finish a few complicated species maps. We have developed a new website that focuses on a freely accessible online publication of results and data dissemination rather that volunteer recruitment and data entry. Here we present the species accounts, mapping and summary tools and landscape associations, which was launched as a soft-launch in December 2014.

6 Eighteen lead authors, all of whom have had some involvement in the Atlas project, were assigned to write accounts for the 321 species, of which 35 accounts were published for a soft launch on a this new Atlas website. Another 80 accounts have been completed and are undergoing editorial review to be posted shortly. Another 50 are also being drafted. An editorial system and structure has been established for reviewing account content, and includes volunteer and professional scientific, copy and style editors. Our database manager and landscape analyst enhanced existing and developed new tools to facilitate this process, including customizable area-specific searches for data. This includes continued development of tools on Naturecounts such as four recently developed tools to visualize data records to customizable areas, list annual frequency, display bar charts of species abundance, and list records. The details of Atlas achievements for data and information review and dissemination are listed in the table below: Atlas Achievements Quantity New Atlas Website 1 # Species Accounts 321 # Distribution maps 321 # Probability of Observation maps 227 # Map overlays 5 # of Species w/ Elevation Graphs 280 # of Species w/ Summary Stats 187 Data review/summary tools 4-NatureCounts/ 3-Atlas website Landscape Association summaries 4-Atlas website species accounts This information has been carefully formatted into the species accounts as illustrated below and includes data summaries for four landscape associations in ecologically defined landscapes and conservation management units such as: elevation, Bird Conservation Regions (BCR), Biogeoclimatic Zone (BEC), and BC Ecoprovinces. Summary statistics have also been developed detailing elevation ranges, and mean probabilities and abundances for the different landscape associations.

7 We have also developed a dedicated webpage to provide authors with access to many tools to manage document upload, review and edits online, review rare and colonial species records and review atlas species summaries including access to new maps, and supporting materials (style and technical guidelines, templates and sample accounts), from which they are constructing the accounts. Discussion The raw, summarised and mapped data are made publicly available through the Atlas website and Naturecounts and are already being widely used to inform conservation planning, research and management and by the public to learn more about where to find B.C. s breeding birds. The main conservation applications to date have been: species status assessment, setting conservation priorities, landscape conservation and stewardship, and environmental impact assessment. We completed a major data exchange with the BC Ministry of Environment, and twoway exchange of all relevant data in SPII and the Conservation Data Centre is now ongoing. BSC staff processed >89 direct requests for Atlas data during the fiscal year (not including the regular use/download by numerous conservation practitioners of the Atlas website data summaries and maps), in addition to the mapped data publicly available on the project website Since the project began in 2008, we have approved and processed over 370 data requests via Naturecounts, for multiple users (particularly environmental consultants, universities, governments), not including the many biologists who access processed information directly from the individual species maps on the web. The Conservation

8 Data Centre, other BC Ministry of Environment sections, Environment Canada s Bird Conservation Region Planning teams, and the Joint Ventures are already all regular users of these data. Acknowledgements The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia project partners would like to thank the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders for their financial support. The project partners would also like to thank the all the volunteers, regional coordinators, account authors, and photographers who helped make this project a success. Thank you again for your continuing support, and please don t hesitate to contact us if you would like additional detail on any elements of this report and request, Yours sincerely, Pete Davidson Bird Studies Canada BC Senior Program Advisor Coordinator Christopher Di Corrado BC Breeding Bird Atlas

9 Appendix A: Examples of Probability of Observation maps of species of Interest in the Columbia River Watershed Common Nighthawk (final draft)

10 Osprey

11 Northern Rough-winged Swallow

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