Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y071051

    Integration and Extension of Marbled Murrelet Habitat Data Collected at Different Scales
Project lead: Lank, David
Contributing Authors: Malt, Joshua M.; Lank, David B.; Waterhouse, F. Louise; Burger, Alan E.; Cober, Alvin; Donaldson, Ann; Ott, Peter K.; Whittaker, Caroline
Imprint: [BC] :, 2007
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Marbled Murrelets, seabirds that use large branches of old trees (>140 yr) for nesting platforms in coastal forests, are listed as a threatened species federally (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) because of the perceived rate of population reductions from loss of nesting habitat with a lengthy (e.g. 150 yr.) regeneration time. They are managed under the provincial Forest and Range Practices Act (Identified Wildlife Management Strategy Account) and Federal Species at Risk Act. A Recovery Plan to guide future management is being produced by Canadian Marbled Murrelet Recovery Team (CMMRT)). Habitat management for murrelets currently focuses on maintenance of acceptable quantities and quality of nesting habitat and follows habitat definitions and habitat assessment methods proposed by the CMMRT (2003). The CMMRT (2003) habitat quality ranking is based heavily on (1) the availability of large tree branches suitable as nesting platforms (more large branches = better habitat), and (2) structural stand characteristics related to the birds ease of access to platforms (more complex stands = easier access). Nesting habitat is currently identified using three filtering methods: airphoto interpretation, helicopter flyovers, and ground sampling. Airphoto interpretation is least costly, helicopter flyovers more costly and ground assessments most costly, but only the latter two methods provide direct measures of platforms. We have evaluated BC protocols for airphoto and helicopter methods by using nest sites previously located in Desolation and Clayoquot Sounds (DS and CS) compared to random points within old forest, thereby quantifying attributes used in nesting habitat selection (Waterhouse et al. 2002, 2004, Donaldson 2004, Burger 2004). In addition, ground plots at a sub-set of random and nest sites were collected in Desolation Sound. We are currently preparing manuscripts that identify stand attributes that best predict nesting habitat quality for murrelets for each assessment method. Preparation of an additional manuscript testing the relationships between and reliability of the three methods is proposed for 2006/2007, contrasting the reliability and application of ground, helicopter, and airphoto assessment methods to better inform on cost/benefit tradeoffs when defining areas of habitat available at different scales and selecting particular areas for conservation. This proposal requests funding for extension of research conducted under previous FSP grants, which originally requested two years of funding. Under FSP Project Y051342-Y062309, Identification of Critical Habitat of Breeding Marbled Murrelets, we collected field data and have made steady progress with analysis and interpretation. However, field data acquisition costs were higher than expected, and more researcher analysis time has been needed than originally budgeted for. As a result of previous research, changes in provincial policies, and the passage of the federal Species at Risk Act, there have also been broader changes in approaches to Marbled Murrelet management in British Columbia (c.f. Identified Wildlife Management Strategies (IWMS) 1999 versus IWMS 2004 (BC MWALP 1999, 2004), and we are adapting our analyses to reflect these changes. The original extension plan in 2004 proposed (1) publication of 3 manuscripts, (2) a summary extension note on assessment of habitat quality at different scales and of standards for evaluation of habitat quality, and (3) a workshop to disseminate findings to practitioners and adjust the standards. The manuscripts and the extension note will be prepared as was proposed during 2005/06, but the publication costs, due to the time delay of the submission/review process, are now expected to carry over into fiscal 2006/07. We have postponed the extension workshop, now proposed for early 2007, to allow for presentations and discussion to be focused on final reviewed findings. The original extension plan also identified preparation and publication of a fourth manuscript that integrates and compares the findings from the approaches used at different scales, for which additional monies are sought, with submission by the end of this grant cycle.


Masters Thesis (1.1Mb)
Executive Summary (36Kb)
Technical Report: Assessing Habitat Quality of Marbled Murrelet Nest Sites… (0.5Mb)
Link 8(3) article 7: Assessing habitat quality for management of marbled murrelets
Biological Conservation article (1.2Mb)
Wildlife Afield article 2007 (4(1): 43-53. Observing wildlife in the crowns of old-growth trees using motion-sensitive cameras

To view PDF documents you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free from the Adobe Web Site.

Updated September 19, 2011 

Search for other  FIA reports or other Ministry of Forests and Range publications.

Please direct questions or comments regarding publications to