Conservation objectives for wintering and breeding waterbirds in California’s Central Valley

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Shuford, W. David, and Kristen E. Dybala
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Birds associated with wetlands have declined historically across North America from extensive habitat loss and degradation. Among the regions most affected is California’s Central Valley, where over 90% of the wetland base has been lost. Still, this region remains of continental importance to waterbirds. On-the-ground conservation efforts for all bird groups are the focus of the Central Valley Joint Venture, guided by a periodically updated implementation plan. To track progress toward goal attainment, that plan sets time-bound, quantitative conservation goals. Lacking robust data on the size and trends of populations of most species of waterbirds in the Central Valley, we set conservation goals for this group by selecting 10 focal species. These species are of heightened conservation concern or are otherwise representative of the habitat needs of Central Valley waterbirds. Given the great loss of historical habitat, we assumed focal species populations have declined by ≥ 50%. Hence, we defined population objectives for most focal species as increasing their current populations by 10% over 10 years and doubling them in 100 years. The corresponding habitat objectives are to increase wetlands or enhance suitable crops for waterbirds in proportion to the population objectives. These include an increase over 10 years of 7,948 ha (19,641 acres) of winter seasonal wetlands, 921 ha (2,276 acres) each of semi-permanent and summer seasonal wetlands, and 573 ha (1,416 acres) of strategically placed riparian forest. Agricultural needs include additional winter flooding of 15,160 ha (37,461 acres) of rice and 2,137 ha (5,281 acres) of corn. We distributed the habitat objectives across five planning regions, in some cases favoring proportionally larger increases in those regions with the greatest need. To maximize success, however, conservationists must take into account the specific needs of individual waterbird species, as a one-size-fits-all approach will not support the highest diversity of waterbirds.


Shuford, W. David, and Kristen E. Dybala. 2017. “Conservation Objectives for Wintering and Breeding Waterbirds in California’s Central Valley.” San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 15 (1).