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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Linking monitoring and data analysis to predictions and decisions for the range-wide eastern black rail status assessment

Conor P. McGowan*, Nicole F. Angeli, Whitney A. Beisler, Caitlin Snyder, Nicole M. Rankin, Jarrett O. Woodrow, Jennifer K. Wilson, Erin Rivenbark, Amy Schwarzer, Christine E. Hand, Ryan Anthony, Rusty K. Griffin, Kyle Barrett, Amanda A. Haverland, Nicolette S. Roach, Todd Schnieder, Adam D. Smith, Fletcher M. Smith, James D. M. Tolliver, Bryan D. Watts

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The US Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated a re-envisioned approach for providing decision makers with the best available science and synthesis of that information, called the Species Status Assessment (SSA), for endangered species decision making. The SSA report is a descriptive document that provides decision makers with an assessment of a species’ current status and predicted future status. These analyses support all manner of decisions under the US Endangered Species Act, such as listing, reclassification, and recovery planning. Novel scientific analysis and predictive modeling in SSAs could be an important part of rooting species conservation decisions in current data and cutting edge analytical and modeling techniques. Here we describe a novel analysis of available data to assess the current condition of eastern black rail across its range in a dynamic occupancy analysis. We used the results of the analysis to develop a site occupancy projection model where the model parameters (initial occupancy, site persistence, colonization) were linked to environmental covariates, such as land management and land cover change (sea-level rise, development, etc.). We used the projection model to predict future status under multiple sea-level rise and habitat management scenarios. Occupancy probability and site colonization were low in all analysis units and site persistence was also low, suggesting low resiliency and redundancy currently. Extinction probability was high for all analysis units in all simulated scenarios except one with significant effort to preserve existing habitat, suggesting low future resiliency and redundancy. With results of these data analyses and predictive modeling, the US Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that protections of the Endangered Species Act were warranted for this subspecies.