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 Volume III

3.1 INTRODUCTION

Volume III builds upon previous work by examining conservation issues, conservation actions, and monitoring strategies for the 301 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified in Volume II. All of Elements 3 and 4 are addressed as well as significant portions of Element 5. The Conservation Issues and Habitat Guilds sections of each Species Account were populated using information developed in Volume III. These data were also used for Priority Conservation Area mapping in Volume IV. The following sections describe the processes used by our Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) Team to determine appropriate Conservation Issues and Actions for each species. We also explain the reasoning behind our grouping of species into habitat guilds. A section on Adaptive Management is included under ‘Monitoring’ to explain how Kentucky will utilize these principles to modify future versions of this Plan. The Adaptive Management principles developed here were also utilized in Volume IV when specific Conservation Actions were identified for Priority Conservation Areas.

3.2 CONSERVATION ISSUES AND ACTIONS

Biologists on the CWCS team have long been cognizant of a myriad of conservation issues affecting fish and wildlife species in Kentucky. Their challenge with developing a strategy was to reach consensus on a comprehensive list of these issues. To accomplish this, the CWCS team members divided into 2 groups: an aquatic team and a terrestrial team. These teams met on several occasions to develop a list of conservation issues affecting the 301 SGCN. Once the two lists were developed, all team members met to develop a combined list, while correcting redundancies and various terminologies. A total of 79 state conservation issues were the result (Appendix 3.1). Conservation issues affecting each species were also listed in the species accounts in Volume II. As directed in Element 3, biologists developed priority research and survey needs that will be required to more fully understand the conservation issues faced by Kentucky’s SGCN (Appendix 3.2). The research and survey needs were designed for multiple scales (landscape or site-specific), include both habitat and population based efforts, address public awareness and education concerns, and are organized by taxonomic group. The conservation issues listed in Appendix 3.1 were organized to allow cross referencing with conservation actions developed by the CWCS team. These conservation actions were developed in subsequent meetings to address each of the 79 conservation issues. All conservation actions developed by the CWCS team are listed in Appendix 3.3.

Assigning conservation actions to habitat guilds worked well for nearly all SGCN across taxonomic classes. However, some important taxa specific actions did not apply to all species in a guild. An example would be working internationally for neotropical migratory bird issues. The CWCS Team developed an additional list (Appendix 3.4) of conservation actions that have unique applications. Conservation Actions were assigned to taxonomic groups instead of guilds when:

  • Conservation Actions were specific to a Conservation Issue within a single taxonomic group (e.g., applied to Birds only);
  • Conservation Actions did not correspond well with our guild approach because they addressed a group of species that used a variety of actions (e.g., neotropical migratory birds);
  • Conservation Actions were of great importance to the conservation and/or management of a single taxonomic group; and,
  • Conservation Actions of great importance to one taxonomic group may be “masked” by combining taxonomic groups within guilds.

3.3 HABITAT GUILDS

As previously described, conservation issues were identified for each SGCN. However, the CWCS Team recognized that specific conservation actions realistically applied to more than one issue and affected many SGCN that utilize similar habitat associations. Additionally, species using similar habitats are also subject to similar issues. For these reasons we elected to group species into habitat guilds and then assign conservation actions that address the full suite of conservation issues for the entire guild. Prioritization of conservation actions was accomplished at the guild level instead of species level.

The CWCS Team defined “guild” as a collection of species that occur in the same habitat. Guilds were developed separately for aquatic and terrestrial species, i.e., terrestrial guilds do not contain mussel, fish, or lamprey species. A total of 20 habitat guilds were defined; 10 aquatic and 10 terrestrial (Appendix 3.5). We elected to format this information as Habitat Guild Accounts. Each Account includes a description of the habitat, a list of species occurring in that guild, and a ranking of the most important conservation actions for that guild.

3.3.1 Aquatic Guilds

The Aquatic Habitat Guild Accounts are given in Appendix 3.6. Each guild type was based primarily on the ichthyofaunal habitat classification system developed by Burr and Warren (1986). Modifications to this system are explained within each account. Using distributional information about aquatic SGCN, we developed categories based on topographic position (upland vs. lowland habitats), stream flow, substrate, and size of channel (riverine system) that would include the full spectrum of aquatic habitats known to support these aquatic species of concern. These Aquatic Habitat Guilds were then used to assign conservation actions based on issues facing individual SGCN.

Aquatic taxonomic group experts developed a list of ‘Top 10’ conservation actions for each guild. Objectives were developed for the entire aquatic group rather than for each guild. The 3 major conservation objectives that apply to all 10 aquatic guilds are given in Appendix 3.7. Under each major objective is a prioritized list of conservation actions with their associated performance measures.

3.3.2 Terrestrial Guilds

The Terrestrial Habitat Guild Accounts are given in Appendix 3.8. Terrestrial Habitat Guilds were based mainly on the major plant communities found in Kentucky, which have been described in great detail by a number of authors. We followed the general description of major plant communities provided by Jones (2005) with minor modifications. For example, we combined Jones’ “Swamp Forest” and “Floodplain Forest” to create our “Forested Wetland” guild forming a more functional terrestrial habitat guild. We recognized that Kentucky contains many transitional, or intermediate, communities based on subtle changes in soil, moisture, and topography (Jones 2005), but believe we thoroughly represented the breadth of terrestrial habitats and their associated faunal diversity. A single species often occurs in more than one guild, indicating that it may be found in the major guilds or the transition zones between guilds. Additionally, some of the Terrestrial Habitat Guilds are based primarily on unique physical features rather than plant communities (e.g., Running Water; Standing Water; Caves, Rock Shelters, and Clifflines; Urban/Suburban) although their plant communities are often unique as well.

Experts for each of the terrestrial taxonomic groups worked together and assigned a ranked list of ‘Top 10’ conservation actions for each guild. Actions were then organized into objectives and performance measures were developed for each objective. Other conservation actions relevant to a guild but not appearing as ‘Top 10’ are also listed where appropriate. For each of the 10 terrestrial guilds there may be multiple conservation objectives. Each objective has multiple conservation actions.

3.4 MONITORING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT

In the preceding sections we identified the conservation issues facing Kentucky’s SGCN and prioritized conservation actions to address those issues within the context of habitat guilds. Based on existing conditions and best professional judgment each taxonomic group developed conservation actions to address stresses affecting species and ecological systems. As directed by Element 5, we now develop monitoring plans designed to evaluate populations and habitats of SGCN as well as the effectiveness of conservation actions. Monitoring plans are targeted to address the strategy conservation priorities and to test the assumptions made through identifying appropriate stresses and actions. Our intent was to build a monitoring package comprehensive enough to meet the needs of the Strategy and still be easily evaluated and modified as needed. For many species, prior to engaging in a comprehensive terrestrial monitoring effort statewide mapping and inventory data must be conducted to determine the state of species and habitats throughout Kentucky. In this context, survey and research needs are the first steps in our monitoring efforts.

The USFS has recently developed a comprehensive plan for the Daniel Boone National Forest (2004) that included monitoring. KDFWR was an active participant in that effort and significant portions of the USFS Plan are relevant to the CWCS process. According to the USFS there are three types of monitoring efforts that should be used in order to truly determine the state of habitats or species.

  • Targeted Monitoring: “Monitoring the condition and response to management of species and habitats that are identified as being of concern or interest.”
  • Context Monitoring: “Monitoring a broad array of ecosystem components at multiple scales without specific reference to influences of ongoing management.”
  • Cause and Effect Monitoring: “Investigates the mechanisms that underlie habitat and species response to management and other forms of disturbance.”

The USFS Recommendations on Monitoring Terrestrial Animal Species and Their Habitats (2004) was used with some slight modifications, these components should address the needs of KDFWR and its partners.

Critical Elements for Successful Monitoring in Kentucky

  • Make a commitment to improve monitoring of terrestrial animals and their habitats.
  • Ensure that all monitoring contributes to adaptive management by exploring the causes for trends and alternative scenarios that could reverse unfavorable trends.
  • Ensure that all monitoring protocols are sound and data collected are appropriate to be included in the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information Database.
  • Implement monitoring strategies that integrate habitat and population monitoring. Monitoring habitat alone will rarely be sufficient for adaptive management because habitat relationships are not well understood and may not be predictable.
  • Recognize that monitoring will exist at different scales. Coordinate across ecological and administrative scales, with emphasis on the role of the Regions. Because KDFWR would be working with partners, it would be beneficial to all groups if ecological regions and/or watersheds were used for both communications and coordination.
  • Establish appropriate roles and coordination for other agencies, organizations and private landowners.
  • Provide adequate staffing, skills and funding structures to accomplish monitoring objectives.
  • Adopt and integrate three types of monitoring (context, targeted, and cause-and-effect).
  • Use sound ecological principles and risk assessment to prioritize and design monitoring activities.
  • Use partnerships and interagency coordination to accomplish monitoring objectives.
  • Ensure that individuals and teams responsible for monitoring development and oversight have appropriate skills.
  • KDFWR should work with partners to implement monitoring strategies based on the above components. While KDFWR already has monitoring efforts underway, those efforts should be evaluated to determine whether they meet the above elements. They should also be evaluated to determine whether data collected from these monitoring efforts can be incorporated into the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information Database.

With these principles in mind, Aquatic and Terrestrial CWCS Team members developed the monitoring strategies given in Appendix 3.9. These strategies were identified as ‘existing’ or ‘new’, population or habitat based, and organized by taxonomic group. Monitoring was constructed to work in conjunction with the priority research and survey needs identified in Appendix 3.2. Many research and survey needs are designed to gather baseline habitat and population information for SGCN. These data will be managed through the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information System and be made available for evaluation in the context of longer term monitoring to judge the effectiveness of conservation actions and objectives.

It is both strategically and operationally difficult to maintain a monitoring effort that meets the needs of all species and habitats. A strong program would include the use and interaction of targeted, context, and cause and effect monitoring. However, there are real financial and personnel limitations existing in the Department and partners. It is impossible to monitor every SGCN in Kentucky based these limitations; therefore monitoring plans are largely focused on habitats that indicate the overall conditions for SGCN. All data collected during these monitoring efforts must be based on sound research design and appropriate statistical methodology regardless of who or what organization is collecting data. This will allow KDFWR to use monitoring data to populate the KFWIS Database that can be shared without fear of providing an inferior or ineffective product to partners.

After developing the priority monitoring, research, and survey needs (Appendix 3.2 and Appendix 3.9) 6 conservation action categories were apparent. These are explained below and an example is given.

  • Administrative - Planning/Policy - develop appropriate policies and/or plans to guide decision-making
    Example: Reduce pace and impacts of urban sprawl
  • Information and Education - public outreach and promotion of conservation issues or ideas
    Example: Develop and effective outreach program that articulates the economic and other values of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Regulatory – Development, maintenance, and enforcement of appropriate statutes and regulations
    Example: Reduce, reverse, and/or mitigate the adverse effects of current and past mineral extraction activities on priority reptile and amphibian species and their habitats in the coalfield regions.
  • Habitat Management - restoration, enhancement, protection, maintenance
    Example: Maintain, restore, and/or increase acreage of shallow water wetlands
  • Species Management - restoration, propagation, population control (native and exotic)
    Example: Identify suitable and critical habitat (i.e., substrate, flow) requirements for freshwater mussels
  • Research/Survey - gain new information on species, their populations, and their habitats; establish baselines where needed
    Example: Examine effects of diseases, contaminants, and stochastic events (drought, flooding, etc.) on populations of priority amphibian species.

These conservation action categories provide a framework to organize the many individual actions and objectives developed by the CWCS Team. This organizational framework also allows examination of actions in the broader context of partnerships, long-term funding, and adaptive management. Partnerships are critical to the successful implementation of Kentucky’s Strategy. Our strategy is ambitious and wide ranging. Success will require working with agencies at all levels of government, industry, private land owners, and non-government organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. Nearly all conservation actions and objectives as well as research and survey projects will require significant cooperation to put into practice. Additional and non-traditional funding sources will be needed in order to provide the staff, equipment, and incentives required to put the full force of this Strategy in place. It will be extremely difficult to apply many aspects of this plan if future implementation monies under current legislation remain at a 50:50 State/Federal match

In an adaptive approach to monitoring policies are treated as experiments. (Walters 1986, 1997). We acknowledge the many unknowns but strive for optimal system return with information feedback along the way (Williams et al. 2002). In other words, we do the best we can given what we know and try to learn along the way.

In general, an adaptive decision-making and monitoring scheme (Williams et al. 2002) entails several components, including:

  • Assessment of the current state of the resource system,
  • Prediction of the expected impact of each conservation action among the set of feasible alternative actions or decisions,
  • Collection of monitoring data to assess the new current system state
  • Repetition of steps 1-3 with the new information.

Taxonomic experts developed monitoring plans that will be used to determine the effectiveness of conservation actions and as a feedback mechanism for the adaptive management process. CWCS Team members were frequently faced with uncertainty. Lack of baseline data made the process of identifying appropriate stressors and actions ambiguous at times. Many stressors operate on the landscape simultaneously. Measuring the response of a stress to a specific action can take decades in some cases. Ultimately, many decisions were based on the best professional judgment of our experts, not a strict examination of data. With this in mind, we recognized the need to incorporate adaptive management as an integral part of this strategy to improve upon our current efforts.

We are committed to developing a database to aid in tracking progress and evaluating our successes and failures. Guidance from IAFWA (2003) was used to conceptualize the framework for this database (Appendix 3.10). Targets for tracking will be structured around the 6 conservation action categories (or goals) with the prioritized conservation actions, research, and surveys already identified. A geographic component will be included to incorporate the Priority Conservation Areas identified in Volume IV (sections 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5). Adopting this structure ensures scheduled review and evaluation of the Strategy at many levels. It also provides the mechanism for incorporating new information and adapting our efforts accordingly.

Implementation of the Strategy will not be a precise process; there are many unknowns that are not under the control of resource managers. Therefore, planning must acknowledge the dynamic nature of ecological systems and associated scientific and social uncertainties, be cognizant of the inherent variability of natural processes, acknowledge adverse cumulative effects of management actions, and preserve options for future generations. The Strategy is intended to incorporate new information in a timely fashion so that mistakes are not repeated and practical solutions are quickly identified. Employing principles of adaptive management and tracking the Strategy progress are critical components for success.

3.5 LITERATURE CITED

Burr, B.M., Warren, M.L.Jr., 1986. A Distributional Atlas of Kentucky Fishes. Volume Number 4 . Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series.

International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Teaming With Wildlife Committee. .Resources for development of state Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plans. 2003. http://www.teaming.com/pdf/6%20Monitoring%20Success.pdf

Jones, R.L., 2005. Plant life of Kentucky: an illustrated guide to the vascular flora. The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

U.S. Forest Service. Land and Resource Management Plan for the Daniel Boone National Forest. 2004. Winchester, KY., Daniel Boone National Forest.

Walters, C., 1986. Adaptive management of renewable resources. Macmillan, New York, New York.

Walters, C., 1997. Challenges in adaptive management of riparian and Coastal ecosystems. Conservation Ecology 1:1.

Williams, B.K., Nichols, J.D., Conroy, M.J., 2002. Analysis and management of animal populations. Academic Press, San Diego, California.