Using Estimates

The Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program collects breeding bird information each year in multiple states throughout the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Intermountain West. Every year, occupancy and density estimates are calculated at a variety of spatial scales. This information can be used in the following ways to inform avian conservation and management:

  1. Bird population estimates can be compared in space. For example, stratum-level estimates can be compared to state and regional estimates to determine whether local populations are above or below estimates for the region and to determine conservation stewardship for a management area within a specific region;
  2. Population estimates can be used to make informed management decisions about where to focus conservation efforts. For example, strata with large populations can be targeted for protection and strata with low populations can be prioritized for conservation action; a threshold could be set to trigger a management action when populations reach a predetermined level;
  3. Population estimates of treatment areas can be compared to regional estimates to evaluate effectiveness of management actions. For example, if sagebrush areas are being treated to improve habitat for Greater sage-grouse (GRSG) and estimates for sagebrush-obligate birds increase in these areas in relation to regional estimates where treatment is not occurring, the results would suggest that the GRSG management actions are also beneficial to other sagebrush-obligate bird species;
  4. Annual estimates of density and occupancy can be compared over time to determine if population changes are a result of population growth or decline and/or range expansion or contraction. For example, if population densities of a species declined over time, but the occupancy rates remained constant, then the population change was due to declines in local abundance. In contrast, if both density and occupancy rates of a species declined, then population change was due to range contraction;
  5. Occupancy rates can be multiplied by the land area in a region of interest to estimate the area occupied by a species. For example, if a stratum comprises 120,000 km2 and the occupancy estimate for Western Meadowlark is 0.57, managers can estimate that 68,400 km2 (120,000 km2 * 0.57) of habitat within that stratum is occupied by Western Meadowlarks. 
For more real-world examples of how population estimates are used, visit this spreadsheet to see past and current raw data requests, projects targeting specific management or conservation questions (overlay projects), additional analyses to address IMBCR partner needs, publications, reports, and tools.
2012 Rocky Mountain Observatory