A spatially explicit modeling framework to guide management of subsidized avian predator densities

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Anthropogenic resource subsidization across western ecosystems has contributed to widespread increases in generalist avian predators, including common ravens (Corvus corax; hereafter, raven). Ravens are adept nest predators and can negatively impact species of conservation concern. Predation effects from ravens are especially concerning for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse), which have experienced prolonged population decline. Our objectives were to quantify spatiotemporal patterns in raven density, evaluate sage-grouse nest success concurrent with fluctuating raven densities, and demonstrate a spatially explicit decision support tool to guide management applications to appropriate conflict areas. We combined ~28,000 raven point count surveys with data from more than 900 sage-grouse nests between 2009 and 2019 within the Great Basin, USA. We modeled variation in raven density using a Bayesian hierarchical distance sampling approach with environmental covariates on detection and abundance. Concurrently, we modeled sage-grouse nest survival using a hierarchical frailty model as a function of raven density and other environmental covariates that influence the risk of nest failure. Raven density commonly exceeded 0.5 ravens km−2 and increased at low elevations with more anthropogenic development and/or agriculture. Reduced sage-grouse nest survival was strongly associated with elevated raven density (e.g., >0.5 ravens km−2) and varied with topographic ruggedness, shrub cover, and burned areas. For conservation application, we developed a spatially explicit planning tool that predicts nest survival under current and reduced raven numbers within the Great Basin to help direct management actions to localized areas where sage-grouse nests are at highest risk of failure. Our modeling framework can be generalized to multiple species where spatially registered abundance and demographic data are available.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A spatially explicit modeling framework to guide management of subsidized avian predator densities
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.4618
Volume 14
Issue 8
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description e4618, 20 p.
Country United States
State Nevada
Other Geospatial Great Basin
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