Nationwide maps of bird species can help protect biodiversity

by Eric Hamilton, University of Wisconsin-Madison
April 15, 2022

New, highly detailed and rigorous maps of bird biodiversity could help protect rare or threatened species.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed the maps at a fine-enough resolution to help conservation managers focus their efforts where they are most likely to help birds — in individual counties or forests, rather than across whole states or regions.

The maps span the contiguous U.S. and predict the diversity of birds that live in a given area, related by traits such as nesting on the ground or being endangered. Those predictions are based on both detailed observations of birds and environmental factors that affect bird ranges, such as the degree of forest cover or temperature in an area.

“With these maps, managers have a tool they didn’t have before that allows them to get both a broad perspective as well as information at the level of detail that’s necessary for their action plans,” says Anna Pidgeon, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology at UW–Madison who helped lead the development of the maps.

Pidgeon worked with UW–Madison professor Volker Radeloff, postdoctoral researcher and lead author Kathleen Carroll and others to publish the research and the final maps April 11 in the journal Ecological Applications. The maps are available for public download from the open-access website Dryad.

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