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Migratory Bird Stopover Habitat Maps

Katie Kahl -  

Migratory birds in relation to regional ecological and social values
Located at the intersection of the Mississippi and North Atlantic Flyways, the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) is an important corridor for northern birds migrating to and from the southern United States to Argentina. Songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, hawks, owls, and other species that travel through this region are dependent on food and shelter offered by the Western Lake Erie shoreline and inland stopover habitat during the high-stress periods of spring and fall migration. In turn, the huge numbers of migrating birds represent an important component of the food chain by eating millions of insects and fruits and dispersing seeds along their route. The preservation of stopover sites ensures the survival of these birds, which is critical for both the biodiversity of the lake basin and the continued presence of these species in their southern range. This makes conservation efforts in the Lake Erie basin both locally and internationally important. In addition to their ecological role, migratory birds are treasured by the many bird enthusiasts who visit or live in the region. The seasonal diversity and abundance of migrating birds attract birders from around the world, who collectively benefit the region’s economy by spending an estimated $26 million on food, gas, lodging, and other expenses related to their visit to the Lake Erie coast.  The WLECCV project acknowledges migratory birds as an important target for conserving WLEB biodiversity and the tourism industry that depends on these species.
Migratory Bird Stopover Habitat data layer
The Lake Erie Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (LEBCS) set the following 2030 goals for the WLEB: 1) At least 30% of the 2 km coastal area comprises high quality stopover habitat for migrating landbirds, 2) at least 10% of coastal area comprises high quality stopover habitat for migrating shorebirds, 3) at least 50% of the 2 km coastal area, including coastal wetlands, comprises high quality stopover habitat for migrating waterfowl, 4) at least 80% of the 2 km coastal area that is high quality stopover habitat for all bird groups is in conservation ownership or management. The WLECCV project incorporated the habitat scores from a recent study by Ewert et al. (2012) for each of the three bird groups and separated them into five categories: coastal landbird habitat (0-1.6 km from shore), inland landbird habitat (1.6 -25 km from shore), shorebird habitat (≤25 km of shore), nearshore waterfowl habitat (from Lake Erie shore to 15 m depth), and inland waterfowl habitat (islands and up to 25 km inland of Lake Erie shore). These data layers facilitate achievement of LEBCS goals by depicting existing stopover habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl, and landbirds (coastal only), and restorable inland habitat for landbirds, thus indicating where conservation efforts best accomplish these goals. The original study identified and scored attributes of stopover sites and potential stopover habitat, such as land cover data and proximity to water bodies, within 25km of the Lake Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario shorelines, and their connecting water bodies³. The criteria used in the study to predict the locations of stopover sites are based on a literature review and on unpublished information from reports and regional stopover experts; further study method details are available online.