Coastal habitat on the Alaska Peninsula Photo – L. Fuller
The Pacific Birds International Management Board has selected two conservation priorities to guide the Joint Venture’s work with its partners over the next decade. These will set the stage for focused efforts that address bird habitat conservation needs on a regional scale. We are pleased to announce these two priorities:
Oak and Prairie Conservation
Increasing the Resilience of Coastal Wetlands Threatened by Climate Change
Habitats across the Joint Venture will face subtle to dramatic change throughout the 21st century, so it is critical to focus on the highest priority conservation needs in order to sustain robust bird populations at a landscape scale. Pacific Birds will use its new strategic focus to identify and address the most critical habitat conservation needs for birds. We will also work to increase the partnership’s resources, capacity and supporters. And importantly we hope to generate new ideas that will benefit birds that reside in, and migrate through, the Joint Venture region.
Independent efforts are not enough
Considerable effort has already gone into conserving, restoring and managing habitats for birds and biodiversity. These efforts are largely occurring at a local level, however, without a backdrop of regional priorities and without a climate change lens. Improving the function and resilience of important bird habitats will require ongoing research, development and implementation of protection and restoration strategies. It will also require mitigating for the effects of climate change such as sea level rise. To successfully conserve the most critical avian habitats, we must bring about a more unified front that embraces flyway-wide conservation issues.
Oak and prairie habitats are a significant feature of the native landscape from northern California to southern British Columbia. Their range has diminished due to urban development, agriculture, and encroachment by conifers in the absence of fire. A decade ago, some oak experts thought we had less than 30 years to reverse the trend toward conifer dominance; today the window is even shorter and climate change may hasten the conversion. Oak and Prairie are now among the Pacific Northwest’s most threatened landbird habitats, providing a dwindling base for 26 bird species. The initial focus of this priority will be catalyzing a concerted, regional effort that addresses the looming threats to oak and prairie habitats.
Coastal Wetlands—Climate change will add to existing stressors
Coastal wetlands, including estuaries and associated freshwater wetlands, provide essential habitat for numerous migratory bird species. And migratory birds need functional habitats for breeding, wintering, resting and refueling—wherever they are along the flyways.
There have been extensive wetland losses in many areas of the joint venture, including Puget Sound, the Fraser River Estuary, Humboldt Bay, and the Columbia River Estuary. Hawaii’s endangered waterbirds face imminent threats due to wetlands loss and degradation. Alaska and British Columbia still have relatively pristine coastal ecosystems, but migratory birds face conservation threats nonetheless.
A major emphasis within this priority will be identifying, conserving and managing the most threatened wetland habitats. This will include planning for and mitigating the effects of climate change. And we will work to complement and expand existing work in coastal habitats, such as sea level rise studies and wetlands planning currently underway in Hawaii.
How can the Pacific Birds Partnership help with conservation efforts?
Ecologically, the overarching goals for the new Pacific Birds priorities are clear. We need to maintain a functioning network of interconnected coastal wetlands to sustain healthy bird populations, and we need to help conserve the oak and prairie landscapes so essential to a number of declining landbird species and the region’s biodiversity. How we go about this will be a true collaborative effort within our vast partner network!
Habitat Joint Ventures were formed as self-directed partnerships to protect habitats for migratory birds and form an international network capable of addressing full life-cycle needs of birds. Pacific Birds has successfully brought multiple interests together to find common ground for conservation over the past 25 years. We have created networks to advance both long-term conservation planning and local project delivery. Those networks have provided connections and resources, and generated funding opportunities and inspiration.
These core functions aren’t going away. They will, however, be more directed toward our new priorities. Partners have clearly told us they want to better understand how local efforts connect to broader scale bird conservation, and we can help with that. We also intend to work to increase our overall capacity in the next few years, so we can bring our networking strengths to additional avian habitat types.
We invite your participation
Our staff and board believe conservation outcomes benefit tremendously from strategic collaboration—from identifying the problem to implementing solutions. The work of our many public and private partners has always been, and will remain the heart of bird conservation in the Pacific Region. The more we learn together, the better we can connect our conservation efforts across species’ ranges and flyways, and the better we can address new challenges—such as climate change and sea level rise.
In 2016, we will invite partners to further discuss how we can complement existing efforts, identify additional conservation strategies and increase networking and communications. We will also be asking partners how to best support bird conservation plans currently in development, while promoting a strong conservation network that makes smart, adaptive conservation decisions over a larger landscape.
To learn more about Pacific Birds or get involved, please contact Bradley Bales, U.S. Coordinator or Tasha Sargent, Canada Coordinator, or a staff member in your area. Please check our website for more information on the conservation priorities, as well as for other resources about bird habitat conservation.