Vulnerability Assessment Data to Categorize Focal Species in New York

USGS Cooperative Research Unit Corner

Vulnerability Assessment Data to Categorize Focal Species in New York

In late December, the New York (NY) State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released an updated draft list of the state's Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). DEC used a model developed for them by Dr. Angela Fuller and Dr. Mitchell Eaton of the US Geological Survey (USGS) NY Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (CRU) at Cornell University to analyze vulnerability assessment data and categorize SGCN based on data concerning their status. Data inputs to the model included the species' current trends in abundance and distribution in New York and neighboring states, rarity, intrinsic vulnerability, relative contribution of New York to the North American population and distribution, threats, and estimates of certainty from the expert meetings that were held to review species assessment data.

Revising the SGCN list is the first step in updating NY's State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). In 2002, Congress authorized funding through the State and Wildlife Grants Program for states and territories to develop SWAPs to conserve and manage habitats and species before they become too expensive or rare to restore. NY completed the plan in 2005 and the original list included 537 species of concern. The plans must be revised at least every 10 years, and DEC and partners are in the process of updating the list.

"By identifying those SGCN in NY, DEC and our conservation partners will be better able to focus our conservation resources where they are most urgently needed," said DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens. "We are working to identify and eliminate threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, and invasive species to maintain healthy and balanced ecosystems, which are critical in maintaining our state's fish and wildlife resources."

The draft final list contains 372 SGCN that have experienced or are likely to experience population decline in the next 10 years and require conservation actions to stabilize their populations in NY. Half of the species on the list are considered high priority to receive timely management intervention or their populations are likely to reach unsustainable levels. Examples of high priority species are black rail, cerulean warbler, loggerhead shrike, piping plover, eastern hellbender, Blanding's turtle, Atlantic sturgeon, dwarf wedgemussel, and northern amber bumble bee.

There are 111 species categorized as Species of Potential Conservation Need (SPCN). SPCN have poorly-known population status and trends, requiring research or surveys to determine their status. SPCN species include boreal chorus frog, southern leopard frog, tiger shark, and monarch butterfly. Approximately 100 additional SPCN do not require a focused conservation effort because they are extinct from NY, stable, or are not observed in the state.

Conservation threats include climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, and pollution. DEC and conservation partners will identify conservation actions as the next step in developing the SWAP. The SWAP enables NY to be eligible for federal funding through the State Wildlife Grants program that is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Grant funds must address monitoring, research, species and habitat management, and surveys. Since 2010, New York has received an average of $2 million per year in SWG funds which has helped New York implement programs to conserve declining species.

Each month, the ONB features articles from Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units across the country. Working with key cooperators, including WMI, Units are leading exciting, new fish and wildlife research projects that we believe our readers will appreciate reading about. This month's article was written by Angela Fuller with the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, and Dawn Childs, USGS CRU Communications.

March 17, 2015