A Technical Guide for Monitoring Wildlife Habitat

Christina Vojta along with Mary M. Rowland recently edited: A Technical Guide for Monitoring Wildlife Habitat.  Here is the abstract:

Information about status and trend of wildlife habitat is important for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service to accomplish its mission and meet its legal requirements. As the steward of 193 million acres (ac) of Federal land, the Forest Service needs to evaluate the status of wildlife habitat and how it compares with desired conditions. Habitat monitoring programs provide information to meet the needs of the agency while fostering use of standardized, integrated approaches to produce robust knowledge. This technical guide provides current, scientifically credible, and practical protocols for the inventory and monitoring of terrestrial wildlife habitat. Protocols include data standards, data-collection methods, and methods for detecting and monitoring changes over time (Powell 2000).

To our knowledge, this document is the first comprehensive guide to monitoring wildlife habitats. It serves a unique role by providing protocols specifically tailored to habitat monitoring, which is especially pertinent for the Forest Service, given its role in managing landscapes that support a wide diversity of taxa across the major biomes of North America.

Protocols described in this guide address habitat monitoring for terrestrial wildlife.
In the past, the term wildlife was used to denote all terrestrial vertebrates, especially game birds and mammals, but later was expanded to include species of conservation concern.
In more recent years, the term has broadened to encompass the full array of all biota in
an ecosystem (Morrison et al. 2006). In this technical guide, the term terrestrial wildlife includes terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates, but managers may also find the protocols applicable for monitoring rare plants.

Although population monitoring is a necessary and critical complement to habitat monitoring (chapter 2, section 2.2.2), this guide does not address population monitoring per se because several excellent published resources exist on this topic. Two Forest Service technical guides describe population monitoring: (1) Manley et al. (2006) provide protocols for inventory and monitoring of populations of groups of wildlife species,
using standardized Forest Service plot data to assess habitat conditions at plot sites; and (2) Vesely et al. (2006) describe protocol development for monitoring populations of wildlife, fish, and rare plants. Thompson et al. (1998) and McComb et al. (2010) are also good references for monitoring wildlife populations.

The target audience for this guide is professionals (e.g., ecologists, biologists, silviculturists, and planners) charged with forest planning, project impacts analysis, and habitat monitoring at ranger district, national forest or grassland, and regional levels. This guide may also benefit other agencies and organizations that want to standardize their approaches to wildlife habitat monitoring. Protocols and process steps in this technical guide are recommendations, not agency requirements or policy. This guide follows na- tional direction for inventory, monitoring, and assessment as described in Forest Service Manual (FSM) 1940 (USDA Forest Service 2009).

This first chapter describes the origins of the technical guide, business requirements for wildlife habitat information, key concepts of habitat monitoring, recommended
roles and responsibilities of Forest Service personnel for completing and applying the protocols, the relation of habitat monitoring to other Federal inventory and monitoring programs, and information about data storage and reporting related to habitat monitoring. Chapter 2 describes selection of habitat attributes for monitoring, and chapter 3 addresses planning and design of habitat monitoring programs.

Chapters 4 through 7 provide specific guidance for monitoring selected habitat attri- butes (e.g., vegetation structure and composition), monitoring habitat within a landscape context, and monitoring human disturbance agents. Chapter 8 offers recommendations for data analysis, whereas chapter 9 addresses data storage and reporting. Chapter 10 pro- vides detailed examples of habitat monitoring for two individual species and a monitoring plan for a species group.

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