Saving the Endangered Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird Using Cutting–Edge Conservation Planning Tools

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Cutting-edge conservation planning tools are being implemented to help save the endangered yellow-shouldered blackbird from extinction according to the IUCN's Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG).

The Endangered Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird - photo by Mike Morel / USFWS.

This is the first practical application of this explicit two-species metamodeling tool. It will serve as an important case study from which other multi-species models can be adapted. CBSG Program Officer Phil Miller.

Cutting-edge conservation planning tools are being implemented to help save the endangered yellow-shouldered blackbird according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Conservation Breeding Specialist Group(CBSG).

From August 28-21, the CBSG will facilitate a workshop in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico to help conserve the endangered Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird.

The CBSG is a Specialist Group of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC). CBSG provides species conservation planning expertise to governments, Specialist Groups, zoos and aquariums, and other wildlife organizations by using expert facilitation and the application of science-based planning tools.

“This is the first practical application of this explicit two-species metamodeling tool,” said CBSG Program Officer Phil Miller. “It will serve as an important case study from which other multi-species models can be adapted.”

Go here for the full press release from the Conservation Specialist Breeding Group.

In Puerto Rico, the Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird population has declined by more than 50% since 2004 and fewer than 400 birds remain in their native mangrove habitat.

Bob Lacy, Conservation Scientist at Chicago Zoological Society and CBSG’s Science Advisor, led a team of experts, including CBSG Program Officer Phil Miller, in developing a revolutionary new set of modeling tools to help correct this situation.

Multiple models of specific biological processes, such as population dynamics, disease distribution, and animal movement, are linked using these tools. This process is known as metamodeling.

Workshop participants will employ cutting-edge tools for conservation planning of threatened populations that are influenced by invasive species.

The troubles for the yellow-shouldered blackbird stem from the encroachment of the Shiny Cowbird, an invasive species originally native to South America.

Shiny Cowbird populations began moving northward in the early 1900s when their native habitat was altered due to the spread of agriculture. They now thrive in Puerto Rico, where their unique parenting strategy causes native bird populations to suffer.

Cowbirds, known as "brood parasites," lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave the host species, like Yellow-Shouldered Blackbirds, with the task of raising cowbird young in addition to their own. Because Cowbirds can lay up to 90 eggs per year, overcrowded nests cause abandonment by overwhelmed Blackbirds and subsequent death of chicks.

Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) workshops like this one provide scientific analysis for creating detailed conservation recommendations for endangered species. CBSG Program Officer Kathy Traylor-Holzer will facilitate the meeting.

For this PHVA, metamodeling will be used to link together single-species computer simulation models to create an explicit two-species model. This two-species model will be used to investigate the impact of Shiny Cowbird population abundance and demography on Yellow-Shouldered Blackbirds.

Workshop participants include federal and state government wildlife managers, academics, and conservation non-government organizations (NGOs).

The results will also serve as a large component of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) revised recovery plan for the Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird.

This workshop is the culmination of an ongoing project of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USFWS. They invited CBSG to participate in a broad effort to evaluate the causal effect of invasive species’ abundance on native species’ population.

Go here for the full press release at Endangered Earth News.

Go here for more information about the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group

Endangered Earth News was created by Endangered Species Journalist Craig Kasnoff to promote the plight of endangered species and how to save them.

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