Linking monitoring and data analysis to predictions and decisions for the range-wide eastern black rail status assessment


The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has initiated a re-envisioned approach for providing decision makers with the best available science and synthesis of that information, called the Species Status Assessment (SSA), for endangered species decision making. The SSA report is a descriptive document that provides decision makers with an assessment of the current and predicted future status of a species. These analyses support all manner of decisions under the US Endangered Species Act, such as listing, reclassification, and recovery planning. Novel scientific analysis and predictive modelling in SSAs could be an important part of rooting conservation decisions in current data and cutting edge analytical and modelling techniques. Here, we describe a novel analysis of available data to assess the current condition of eastern black rail Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis across its range in a dynamic occupancy analysis. We used the results of the analysis to develop a site occupancy projection model where the model parameters (initial occupancy, site persistence, colonization) were linked to environmental covariates, such as land management and land cover change (sea-level rise, development, etc.). We used the projection model to predict future status under multiple sea-level rise and habitat management scenarios. Occupancy probability and site colonization were low in all analysis units, and site persistence was also low, suggesting low resiliency and redundancy currently. Extinction probability was high for all analysis units in all simulated scenarios except one with significant effort to preserve existing habitat, suggesting low future resiliency and redundancy. With the results of these data analyses and predictive models, the USFWS concluded that protections of the Endangered Species Act were warranted for this subspecies.

Endangered Species Research