Saturday, September 18, 2021

Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need

There are several different levels or lists of species whose populations warrant some sort of monitoring and/or protections. These include federal and state endangered, threatened ("T&E") and special concern lists; and the species of greatest conservation need generated by the US state-level Wildlife Action Plans. I've served on the Michigan T&E technical committees for insects and birds (as co-chair or chair of birds) since 2014.

More recently, an effort has been underway to compile lists of Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN) to more accurately reflect species' ranges and harness the management power and shared priorities of multiple organizations across regional landscapes. These lists start with all the species listed on each of the states' Wildlife Action Plans, determine which have populations that are primarily within the Midwest region, and then utilize expert opinion regarding concern levels, threats, and other factors. Two of these lists have been completed: the 15-state Southeast Region and the 13-state Northeast Region

Over the past year, I participated on two taxa teams (birds and Odonata) for the 13-state Midwest Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need coordinated by the Midwest Landscape Initiative of the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA). There were 21 experts on the bird taxa team; I represented Michigan along with Mike Monfils of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

13 states in MAFWA region

Data on Canadian provinces were considered although as this is a US-based initiative, representatives from Canada were not involved in the committees. Note that there is also some overlap in US states in the various regions, and some species included on the Watchlist were designated as deferred to a region that had more responsibility for the population.

Twenty-five Michigan bird species are on the list of Midwest RSGCN:


Another 8 species Michigan species were designated "Watchlist - Assessment Priority" due to there being concern, but insufficient of variable data across the states. Another handful were put in that "deferred" category because the regional responsibility was greater for the southeast or northeast.

These are (not so great) screen shots from the data table which can be viewed here. The table contains all the data on all taxa from all states. You'll there is the ability to sort and filter, similar to spreadsheets like Excel. To just see Michigan's birds, go to Filter and choose Where Taxa is Birds and add the condition Where MI_Occurs is Yes. You'll see many other ways to filter and sort the list. There are a lot of columns, some of which indicate the various criteria used to make determinations. If you are interested in the details of methodology, there is a large report with appendices, and there will be a website coming out in the next month or so where all of the methods and data will be much more easily accessible (leave a comment if you would like a copy of the report sooner). 

Meanwhile, the Illinois Natural History Survey is hosting an online presentation on September 28 that will explain the process and give an overview of the results.

If you are interested in the Odonata (dragonflies) list, see this post at Urban Dragon Hunters.