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Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

In an era of unprecedented and rapid global change, dynamic conservation strategies that tailor the delivery of habitat to when and where it is most needed can be critical for the persistence of species, especially those with diverse and dispersed habitat requirements. We demonstrate the effectiveness of such a strategy for migratory waterbirds. We ana- lyzed citizen science and satellite data to develop predictive models of bird populations and the availability of wetlands, which we used to determine temporal and spatial gaps in habitat during a vital stage of the annual migration. We then filled those gaps using a reverse auction marketplace to incent qualifying landowners to create temporary wetlands on their properties. This approach is a cost-effective way of adaptively meeting habitat needs for migratory species, opti- mizes conservation outcomes relative to investment, and can be applied broadly to other conservation challenges.

The pace and magnitude of global change test the resilience of eco- logical and social systems on many fronts (1, 2). Climatic change is upending traditional land uses and creating unpredictability across the spectrum of urban, agricultural, and natural ecosystems (3–7). Reports of changes in species range shifts and phenologies are now ubiquitous [for example, study by Chen et al. (8)]. Existing protected areas may be increasingly insufficient to provide the amount and distribution of hab- itat needed by species (9). Migratory species may be especially vulner- able, given their reliance on finding suitable habitat across vast areas that may also span an array of human use intensities (10). A recent study has shown that just 9% of 1451 migratory bird species are adequately covered by protected areas across all stages of their annual cycle (11). In- adequate protection, along with habitat loss and degradation and climate change, is a contributing factor to the decline of more than half of the migratory bird species across all major flyways in the last 30 years (12).

The need to complement networks of permanently protected areas with suitable habitat outside of those areas is well established (13). For many transient species, this may also require creating, enhancing, or re- taining habitat conditions on a temporary basis, such as by engineering adequate hydrologic flows at critical life stages of anadromous fish (14). However, to be able to adaptively provision habitat when and where migratory species most need it, conservationists need to surmount at least three substantive challenges. They must be able to (i) predict where the species will be over the course of the year, (ii) identify areas that are suitable for the migrants or that can be modified to make them suitable, and (iii) create cost-effective mechanisms to ensure that the habitat will be there when the species arrive.