(Lander, Wyo.) - For the first time, developers, land managers and conservationists have access to bird migration maps in Wyoming. The groundbreaking study, just published in PLOS ONE, was led by Amy Pocewicz of The Nature Conservancy along with WendyAnne Estes-Zumpf and Mark D. Andersen, both from the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD: University of Wyoming).
By synthesizing bird migration data from a variety of sources including scientific literature and knowledge from over 30 regional bird experts, the maps show where several bird groups are expected to concentrate at stopover sites during their migration through Wyoming. A key finding in the study shows 73 percent of high wind development potential areas overlap with important migration areas. At the same time, 27 percent of land with high wind development potential has a lower importance for migrating birds.
“Until now, we didn’t have maps showing important places for migrating birds,” said Amy Pocewicz. “With wind development growing across the state, we wanted to find a way to identify critical areas to inform developers, while also identifying areas for conservation. This is a great example of how science can translate into on-the-ground conservation.”
The scientific publication and a related report titled Mapping Migration: Important Places for Wyoming’s Migratory Birds are based on four functional groups of migrating birds: wetlands birds, riparian birds, raptors and sparse grassland birds. Many of these birds are of conservation concern and their populations are tracked by WYNDD.
“Birds are particularly vulnerable during migration because large numbers often will concentrate in specific areas along migration routes, increasing the risk of population-level impacts from disturbances in and around these areas,” said Wendy Estes-Zumpf, Zoologist at WYNDD. “Our goal is to provide a proactive planning tool that will help resource managers and wind energy developers in Wyoming minimize impacts to migrating birds at these critical stopover sites.”
The Nature Conservancy and WYNDD are now focusing efforts on informing government officials, land managers, developers and conservationists about the availability of these statewide maps of bird migration. The maps have already been used by the Conservancy to identify the benefits of specific conservation projects to migratory birds and to inform projects led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. WYNDD scientists are continuing work on the project, including map refinements based on field verification studies.
–The Nature Conservancy