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Recovery planning in a dynamic system: integrating uncertainty into a decision support tool for an endangered songbird

Jessica C. Stanton, U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Jenny Marek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura, California
Linnea S. Hall, Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Camarillo, California
Barbara E. Kus, U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, San Diego, California
Allison Alvarado, California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, California
Bruce K. Orr, Stillwater Sciences, Berkeley, California
Eric Morrissette, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura, California
Laura Riege, Nature Conservancy, Ventura, California
Wayne E. Thogmartin, U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin


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Along the Santa Clara River in California, populations of the federally and state-listed Least Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) are recovering from near extirpation. Habitat protection and restoration, as well as controlling rates of brood parasitism, are thought to be the primary drivers of this recovery. Continuing successful management of this population faces multiple challenges due to the highly dynamic and unpredictable nature of the system, lack of clearly defined and measurable recovery criteria, parametric and stochastic uncertainty, and data limitations. Many of these management challenges are not unique to Least Bell's Vireo and require careful balancing of limited resources into the future. We developed a decision support tool as a user interface for exploring the underlying uncertainty in a population viability analysis under an array of different management scenarios. The tool was designed to assist with the planning and coordination between conservation partners in the region in three distinct aspects of the decision-making process: defining the problem and setting clear goals and objectives, exploring the consequences of potential alternative actions, and identifying criteria for ongoing evaluation and monitoring. The general framework for the design of this decision support tool is broadly applicable to many management and decision-making scenarios that share these common challenges.

Key words

Arundo donax; Brown-headed Cowbird; conservation; endangered species; Least Bell's Vireo; population viability analysis; recovery planning; uncertainty; Vireo bellii pusillus,

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087