Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program
FIA Project 9012005

    Habitat Supply Modelling for Migratory Birds in the East Kootenay: Project Completion 2009/10
Project lead: Marcie Belcher (Tembec)
Contributing Authors: Wells, Ralph W.; Stuart-Smith, Kari; Mahony, Nancy; Norris, Andrea R.; De Groot, Krista
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program
This project was undertaken in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Service to address ‘incidental take’ of nests, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA). The objectives of the project were to develop and evaluate an approach to identify and protect habitat for migratory bird species identified under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA). Our approach centered on developing landscape level, coarse-filter habitat models for select species, including an evaluation of the amount of current habitat with respect to spatial distribution and risk based on land use allocation to forestry, a comparison of current habitat to habitat estimated to have been available under historic disturbance regimes, and to habitat projected to be available 250 years in the future under current forest management practices.
To select candidates for habitat modelling, we undertook a review of focal species on the Canadian Intermountain Joint Venture (CIJV 2003) lists for forested habitat in the East Kootenay region of south-eastern British Columbia. Based on this review, the project team identified six species for habitat evaluation: Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Olivesided Flycatcher, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Warbling Vireo. For each species, detailed literature reviews were conducted and existing data from the study area analyzed and reviewed. This information was used to develop expert-opinion habitat models. Because enough local species-habitat association data did not exist to develop detailed data-driven models, the models
we developed represent coarse-filter assessments of suitable habitat for the chosen species. The habitat models were then applied to the current landscape within the study area (roughly 1.5 million ha covering the Cranbrook and Invermere Timber Supply Areas) and evaluated for total area, spatial distribution and proportion of land allocated to forestry activities. The habitat models for three species (Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler) were applied to projections of historic landscapes, to determine the amount of habitat available for them under historic disturbance regime conditions, and to projections of future habitat, based on
current forest management practices. We could not compare current to historic and future habitat for Olive-sided flycatcher, Red-naped Sapsucker and Warbling Vireo because of limitations in the forest projection models with respect to deciduous species and riparian areas, important habitat components for these species.
Results suggest that there is currently a substantial amount of suitable habitat for Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler in the study area. Olive-sided flycatcher, Red-naped Sapsucker and Warbling Vireo have less suitable habitat available due to more specialized habitat requirements. Current habitat for Brown Creeper and Townsend’s Warbler is roughly double that estimated to have existed historically, while the opposite is true for Wilson’s Warbler (current habitat roughly half historic). However, habitat for Wilson’s Warbler was projected to increase substantially under current forest management over the next 50 years. Further, climate
change effects such as increased wildfires and drought, which could not be factored into the models, are expected to increase the amount and duration of early seral habitat as well. Although our modelling results do not suggest an immediate need for additional habitat reserves or new forest management strategies for any species, we did see a projected long-term decline, beginning in 20 years, in very high suitability habitat for Townsend’s Warbler in part of our study area. Thus, we undertook a targeting exercise for this species in order to work through what an approach to setting habitat targets might look like. In order to address the issue of insufficient regional data to better define models, a field-based monitoring framework to assess and refine the current species-habitat models was developed. This framework is intended to be used to implement a field model validation and monitoring
program in the coming years, pending available funding. Overall, the approach was effective in providing a coarse filter habitat review for a few focal
species. However, it was relatively expensive, both in direct costs and staff time. Total project costs, including in-kind staff time from Tembec and CWS and travel costs for workshops, were roughly $ 86,000, or just over $ 14,000 per species. Total staff time over the 3 years of the project was roughly 32 days for Tembec and 35 days for CWS. A large part of the cost involved preparation of the data sets for such a large area, and part of the cost was due to the fact that the Cranbrook and Invermere Timber Supply Areas have slightly different digital data, so analysis had to be conducted separately for each. Further, a project of this type relies on detailed and accurate digital forest cover data to be effective. Extensive data on bird-habitat relationships in
the study area, although not critical, would have enabled the development of data-driven models rather than expert opinion model, and provided more confidence in modelling results. Thus, due to cost and time, it is unlikely this comprehensive approach would be feasible to apply on a broad scale for many focal species, unless cooperative groups of forestry companies and government banded together to share costs and expertise. An alternative to modelling habitat for specific species would be to model broad habitat for groups of similar species. Categorization of species into specific groups based on their habitat preference, such as the approach taken by Dr.
Bunnell, is a useful method to determine which species are amenable to habitat modelling and which are not. However, broad modelling exercises may not accurately represent habitat for species associated with particular habitat features not reliably picked up in digital forest cover data sets (i.e., shrub cover, coarse woody debris, residual trees in cutblocks), or be detailed enough for species with clear conservation concern such as COSEWIC listed species.
Related projects:  LBIP_9018002


Project Final Report (3.1Mb)

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

Updated August 16, 2010 

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

Please direct questions or comments regarding publications to