Habitat and Distribution Modeling Across Terrains and Disciplines: Addressing Common Challenges in Fisheries and Wildlife: Part II

Fisheries and wildlife management and conservation are increasingly interdisciplinary processes, and this is especially true for approaches that use habit and distribution models to identify the ecological niches essential for feeding, rearing, and reproduction. Multiple analytical methods have been developed to understand relationships between environmental factors and species distributions, and how these distributions may change under different climate- and land-use scenarios. In addition, scientists develop habitat suitability models that rely on combinations of physical, biological, and chemical models to determine how conditions differ between geographic locations where species are present and absent. Such approaches have been successfully used to identify areas to prioritize for conservation and protection of threatened species, and to identify species that might be at risk due to loss of habitat associated with changing climate and land-use patterns. In this symposium, we welcome talks that combine species distribution or movement data with habitat models to address questions related to fish and wildlife conservation and management.

8:00AM Ensemble Habitat Modeling to Inform at-Risk Species Assessments in the Southeastern U.S.
  Carlos Ramirez-Reyes, Garrett Street, Mona Nazeri, Kristine Evans, D. Todd Jones-Farrand, Francisco J. Vilella
Effective conservation planning requires reliable information on the distribution of species, which is often incomplete due to limited availability of presence data. Species distribution models (SDMs) and associated tools have proliferated in the past decades and have proven valuable in evaluating suitability and critical habitat for species. However, conservation practitioners have not fully adopted them to inform surveys and other monitoring efforts. Instead, most efforts rely on expert knowledge and other traditional methods to locate extant populations. In particular, the Species Status Assessment (SSA) initiative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would benefit from incorporating SDM approaches to facilitate conservation decisions. Here, we describe an SDM approach for at-risk species that could be considered for SSA and similar species monitoring efforts. We applied 4 modeling techniques (generalized additive, maximum entropy, generalized boosted, and weighted ensemble) to recent monitoring data for 3 at-risk species (Papaipema eryngii, Scutellaria ocmulgee, and Balduina atropurpurea) in the Southeastern U.S. The ensemble models reduced uncertainty caused by differences among modeling techniques and improved the predictive accuracy of fitted models. We suggest this approach could be adopted into the SSA framework to improve monitoring efforts and contribute to more robust assessments of at-risk species.
8:20AM Remotely Sensed Metrics Identify Range-Wide Habitat Suitability of an Endangered Marsh Bird
  Eamon Harrity, Courtney Conway
Managers and policy-makers are often confronted with the difficult task of allocating limited resources to conservation efforts and habitat management actions. Data to inform the allocation of resources can be collected in the field, but the high costs and logistical complications of field-based approaches often render large scale field data collection efforts impractical. We used publicly available Landsat data and generalized linear mixed models to link satellite-derived metrics of marsh condition with the relative abundance of the endangered Yuma Ridgway’s rail (Rallus obsoletus yumanensis). We applied the results of our rail abundance models to generate range-wide predictive maps of habitat suitability at a fine spatial grain. Importantly, we used Google Earth Engine to process all satellite imagery and generate the maps of habitat suitability. As such, these maps are shareable, interactive, and easy to update. Such maps will help target management actions, both spatially and temporally, throughout the range of this endangered bird. We focused our efforts on the Yuma Ridgway’s rail, but our methods could be applied to other species of conservation concern.
8:40AM Using Novel Methods to Improve Modeling of Species Distributions
  Erik Beever, Adam Smith, Aaron Johnston, Aimee Kessler
Realized niches reflect constraints on species distributions by different factors over small spatial extents; additionally, species-climate relationships may reflect clinal variability in local adaptation, ecological context, and climate. Ecological niche models framed on the different range-subdivision schemes provided vastly different predictions of currently suitable distribution of Ochotona princeps. Furthermore, different division schemes best explained relationships to climate depending on the spatial extent at which relationships were examined, reflecting differences between long- and short-term processes of climate accommodation and suggesting the influence of local versus broader-scale drivers of species-climate relationships. Although we hypothesized a priori that evolutionary history (i.e., subspecies designations) would perform best, we found that heterogeneity in species-climate relationships was typically best explained by the ecoregional scheme across all three classes of analyses, especially at longer time scales. In some cases, responses to some important climate variables changed sign depending on the unit of analysis (e.g., Sierran vs. other clades), even within the same division scheme. Elevational subdivisions performed worst, in nearly every analysis, even though climatic variables often covary with elevation. In addition to revolutionizing the analysis of ENMs via our novel methods, this study holds great promise for informing climate-adaptation management actions at local extents.
9:00AM Identifying and Operationalizing Big Hairy Audacious Goals for Fish Habitat Research, Management, and Conservation
  Martha E. Mather, Joseph M. Smith, John M. Dettmers, Sean M. Hitchman, John T. Finn
Habitat data are central to successful resource conservation. Although environmental professionals know much about habitat, managers, administrators, and policy-makers still find it difficult to make wise habitat-based conservation and restoration decisions. To achieve a larger vision for research-management collaborations, professionals need to establish stretch goals, which, if achieved, completely change all aspects of an activity, and, for which, the pathway to achievement is often inconceivable at the outset. Two stretch goals for fish habitat research are to (1) identify data needed to make defensible, science-based fish habitat decisions across a range of aquatic systems, species, and years, and (2) clarify what types of decisions are realistic under different mixes of knowledge and uncertainty. Several steps are needed for this transformative process. Philosophically, decision makers should recognize the value of data-based decisions, acknowledge inevitable knowledge gaps, and embrace some mix of data and uncertainty. Empirically, decision makers and researchers must improve connections between decision-support data and management actions, and, through synthesis, better link multiple data sources (including mechanisms and patterns). Iterative, adaptive problem maps that integrate questions, actions, data, methodologies (including species distribution models) with a discussion of data strengths, weaknesses, and uncertainty can provide defensible scientific-based habitat management.
9:20AM Data Access for All, All for Data Access: A Discourse on How Restricted Access to Data Negatively Affects Fisheries and Wildlife Management
  Thomas Edwards, Brett Roper, Jonathan Mawdsley, Daniel Isaak, John Organ
The lack of open, unfettered access to data sources used in distribution and habitat models affecting management, irrespective of source, negatively impacts the science underlying the proper management of our national resources. It can be argued many of the institutions with management and research responsibilities still reside in an era where controlled access to data – “data silos” – defines the approach to management. Historically, this data control derived from costs associated with collection, data transcription, and storage. Arguments frequently posited for such data control are wide-ranging, including those of protection for location data of sensitive species, “ownership” beliefs based on resource investment, to so-called intellectual rights, legal and policy considerations, and, to be self-critical, a seeming arrogance that we as scientists “know best” what to do with data. Consequences of these operational and geographic 20th Century “data silos” are many, and their cumulative effects have not diminished. Instead, we argue, they actually now constrain our management and conservation capabilities. Our goal in this opinion piece is to challenge arguments favoring “data silos,” arguments we believe continue to foster 20th Century data control at the expense of information age technological and analytical advancements that have potential to revolutionize resource management.
09:40AM Break

Organizers: Mary C. Fabrizio, Thomas Edwards, Jennifer Wilkening
Supported by: AFS Marine Fisheries Section; AFS Fish Habitat Section

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: October 1, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 11:50 am