Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN
Existing shorebird monitoring efforts are aimed at providing population size and trend estimates, along with environmental data to help interpret the estimates. However, current programs cannot provide information to determine which life history stage(s) of shorebirds is (are) likely to be limiting overall population growth in declining species. Is it reproductive success? What about the rate of survival of the juveniles, or of the adults? Or perhaps it is some combination of these factors?
This summer, the ambitious and long-sought dream of being able to answer these important conservation questions became a reality with the launch of the Arctic Shorebird Demographics Network (ASDN). Under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Brown of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Dr. Rick Lanctot of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska, and Dr. Brett Sandercock of Kansas State University, the ASDN currently connects the work of shorebird biologists at nine field stations and sites across the vast Arctic breeding grounds of North America, from western Alaska to eastern Canada. Scientists hope to further strengthen the network in 2011 with a total of 11 locations.
Understanding the potential factors limiting the populations of so many declining species at this enormous scale is critical to targeting conservation efforts at the right times and places. Dr. Brown underscores the enormity of this project in saying, “we are starting the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to measure survival and reproductive rates of shorebirds, which will allow us to determine when and where their populations are limited.” The ASDN focuses on migratory shorebirds that breed in the Arctic but migrate and winter throughout the Western Hemisphere. Such migratory species directly experience and are affected by environmental changes occurring throughout their annual range, thereby serving as indicators of that change to scientists.
For more information, contact Dr. Stephen Brown, Director of Shorebird Science, Shorebird Recovery Project, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences; Dr. Rick Lanctot, Shorebird Coordinator–Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; or Dr. Brett Sandercock, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Kansas State University.