The Loss Of Forest Birds Habitats Under Different Land Use Policies As Projected By A Coupled Ecological-econometric Model

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Biological Conservation




Land use is driven by socio-economic factors that must be understood in order to mitigate habitat loss. Econometric land-use models describe how land use is affected by socio-economic factors, such as financial returns to different uses of land, and they can be linked to biological models to provide new insight for conservation. Our goal was to evaluate the effects of future land use change on the habitat of forest breeding bird species in northern Wisconsin. Specifically, we estimated the effects of land use change on the amount of habitat available and compared the effects of economic policy scenarios on bird habitat. To do this, we coupled a spatially-explicit econometric model of land use change on private lands with models of northern Wisconsin forest bird potential habitat, comparing a 50-yr baseline projection with a scenario providing incentives for forest growth and a high urban growth scenario. The baseline scenario suggests an average of 438,705 ha of forest lost (10%), with 1.9% of that saved under the Forest Incentive scenario, and a 1.6% greater loss for the Urban Growth scenario. Under baseline projections boreal birds experienced the least amount of habitat loss (2-3%), and deciduous forest birds the most (6-8%). For some species, the projected loss of habitat exacerbates ongoing long-term declining population trend. Coupled economic-ecological models can be used to evaluate alternative incentive programs and to explore the complex interactions between policy, land use change, and broad spatial scale ecological processes that are highly relevant to conservation.