At Bio Conf 2012, Jeff's talk entitled “Using Spatially-Explicit Individual Based Population Models to Evaluate Alternative Habitat Networks: A Case Study with the Northern Spotted Owl” (Jeffrey R. Dunk, Brian Woodbridge, Nathan Schumaker, Elizabeth Glenn, David LaPlante, and Brendan White).
The northern spotted owl is one of the most studied and contentious birds of prey in the world. It has been listed as a federally threatened species since 1990. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with recovering most listed species, which often includes designating critical habitat. Since the time of the owls’ original listing, the barred owl has emerged as an additional, and significant, threat to spotted owl recovery. As part of the critical habitat designation process, we integrated species distribution, conservation planning, and spatially-explicit individual based population models to evaluate a series of alternative possible critical habitat networks under a series of “what if” scenarios regarding future habitat change and barred owl impacts. Our approach allowed us to compare the relative effects of variation in network size (area), changes in habitat suitability, and barred owl impacts on spotted owl population size, distribution, risk of extinction. The approach we used has the potential for broad application for other conservation planning exercises, as well as providing a repeatable and potentially adaptive (to new information) process.