Eastern Black Rail Science Needs Prioritized List
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Eastern Black Rail Science NeedsScoresOther Factors to Consider
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TierCategoryAction ItemConservation PriorityImmediacyAverage ScoreScale of ImplementationCostSpecific research questions
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1Habitat ManagmentDetermine what combination of habitat features attracts rails and promotes population growth.11.2781.139Multi-state>$250k
The combination of features that BLRAs cue in on seems very precise yet subtle. What features do birds select for on the landscape, patch and territory scales? Are there certain habitat features that increase occupancy? Are there certain habitat features that increase breeding success and/or survival?
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1MonitoringDevelop common protocols for assessing habitat (vegetative/hydrologic) and population responses to habitat modifications.1.2781.2221.250Desktop<$50k
While the protocols in Item 15 may be part of this, there may be other ways we want to monitor populations pre- and post- management. Also, some common way to monitor system changes would be useful in comparing projects from different locations.
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1Habitat ManagmentDevelop and test the effectiveness of various management strategies in both saltwater and freshwater systems.1.1111.4441.278Multi-state>$250k
Can we learn from work occurring in the inland populations and apply these to the east? What are the effects of fire on rails and how does this change with timing of fire, time since fire, etc.? How does timing of hydrolgic events both within and outside the breeding season affect habitat and population growth? Can thin layer deposition be used to augment black rail habitat? Can we create suitable freshwater systems that successfully attract rails? How does rail response to these practices vary across the BLRA range?
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1Habitat ManagmentAssess what makes some locations better than others in continuing to support BLRAs and apply this knowledge to identifying refugia and suitable habitat across the BLRA range1.1111.4441.278Desktop$50-$250k
Use existing data to determine what makes currently occupied sites (e.g. NJ) different from sites that once supported large populations of BLRAs (e.g. MD). Are there refugia that are still holding out despite high tide events? Can we predict where they are and identify locations likely to serve as long-term refugia?
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Population Demographics
Determine which vital rates are having the greatest impact on population growth (or decline).1.2221.4441.333Multi-state>$250k
Highest Priority: What are the nest success and fledging rates for the subspecies? How much does this vary geographically (do we have population sinks)? Secondary Priority: What is the adult survival rate and are there different/limiting seasonal rates? What is the recruitment rate of independent young into the breeding population? Explore using western estimates as proxies to model population growth rates.
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1MonitoringSet up a long-term monitoring program and determine best approach across range (index sites, broad surveys, etc.).1.3331.4441.389Desktop$50-$250k
While Item 15 addresses the particulars of surveys themselves, Item 17 addresses the interval necessary to track population trends, can capture recovery at managed sites, and detect expansions in distribution.
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1MonitoringDevelop common monitoring (occupancy and abundance) protocols and determine if regional protocols are necessary. 1.441.3331.389Desktop/ Local<$50k
Test assumptions on common modifications to BLRA survey protocol (e.g. time of day, replication). Determine detection probabilities to allow comparison across range. Establish recommendations for survey frequency (every X years). Do we really have best practices figured out for survey protocols, including time of day, playback types, and number of surveys necessary? A lot of places still doing only 3 rounds, when Conway et al. 2004 suggest that a minimum of 5 surveys is needed. Also Legare's variable response rates introduce other problems. Finally, both studies were done in areas of relatively high population density.
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2Habitat ManagmentMap black rail habitat across range and identify/prioritize potential areas for management.1.51.51.500Desktop$50-$250k
Predicated on knowledge from Item #2, but we may be able to start with expert opinion and then refine models as more data becomes available. Could we identify something in the remote sensing data that is predictive to identify suitable habitat? Would include freshwater and saltwater marsh, as well as impoundments.
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2MethodologicalDevelop best practices for trapping, banding, and attaching transmitters/tags to black rails.1.5561.4441.500Desktop/ Local<$50k
Are there universal practices that should be used or are they site specific? Harness attachment - glue doesn't last long enough, so what else should we be using?
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2MethodologicalAssess the value of new technologies (e.g. ARUs, nanotags).1.7221.3331.528Local$50-$250k
ARUs: Individual efforts to develop a recognizer have been so far unsuccessful, but is there a group effort needed? What are we really using ARUs for? Can we assess whether rate of calling birds can be used to determine nesting status and nest success/failure? Nanotags: Is there relevance using it during the breeding season? Can they be used to answer migration questions? Can we even tag enough birds to make them worthwhile? eDNA: Does it work?
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Population Demographics
Identify wintering areas and examine the distribution, abundance and survival of black rails across those areas.1.51.5881.544Multi-state>$250k
Where are the important wintering grounds and are there threats to these sites or to survival of birds there? Which sites have the most birds? Do young birds winter in different areas than adults?
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2Habitat ManagmentModel the effects of SLR on coastal habitat and determine if we can build marsh resiliency/facilitate marsh migration in key areas.1.5561.6471.602
Desktop/ Multi-state
>$250k
How much of the habitat is subject to SLR under different scenarios? Are there ways to mitgate the effects of SLR?
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Population Demographics
Determine if severe storm events negatively impact adult survival on a broad scale.2.0561.7061.881Multi-state>$250k
Is there immediate survival impacts from storm events? Are there specific stages where rails are more vulnerable (ex. - flightless molt)? Are these impacts localized or do they have population level ramifications?
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Population Demographics
Determine the boundaries of management units we would like to use (based on biologically, geophysically, or politically significant factors). 2.2221.6471.935Multi-state$50-$250k
Are the population "centers" as currently defined meaningful in any way? What is the level of connectivity between rail populations (genetics, dispersal)? How easily can areas be repopulated? If rails are largely homogenous on a genetic level are there still meaningful separations between groups (ex. do freshwater and saltwater populations remain largely separate? separation by hydrologic units/basins?)?
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3Habitat ManagmentDetermine whether social attraction (ex. boadcast calls) can be used to populate new habitat. 2.2221.751.986Local<$50k
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Population Demographics
Determine which populations are migratory and what areas they use in migration.2.3331.9442.139Multi-state$50-$250k
Which populations are migratory and how far do they go? Are there important migratory stopover spots?
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Population Demographics
Determine whether high density congregations of black rails are due to habitat preferences or colonial behavior.2.5001.9412.221Local$50-$250k
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