Cause-Effect Monitoring, Oil Sands Region

Data on location and timing of surveys, ecological descriptions, environmental attributes (wind, weather etc), bird observations (point count data, species at risk playback data, spot mapping data), habitat data (ecological vegetation data, habitat mapping etc). Regional data were collected from across the Oil Sands Areas of Alberta. Data were also collected at local scales. Data were collected from 2011 until 2015.

Environment Canada’s field work is focused on understanding how boreal songbirds, including several Species at Risk, are affected by human activity in the oil sands area. Identifying the abundance of songbird species associated with various habitat type(s), and understanding how birds vary with type and amount of habitat, is a first step towards assessing the effect of habitat disturbance.

Bird data were collected in various habitats, including some previously unsurveyed habitats, to fill information gaps in bird-habitat models developed in partnership with the Boreal Avian Modelling (BAM) Project. The newly acquired data will increase the robustness of models of bird response to 39 types of forest habitats and disturbance. These models of bird response will be used to improve design of future trend surveys, particularly for uncommon species, to explain observed trends in populations (e.g. why populations may or may not be decreasing or increasing), and to predict how populations will change in future. Because bird trend monitoring can take a long time to yield robust results (e.g. 10-15+ years), models can assist decision-making by helping evaluate land-use choices before impacts are directly observed.

Environment Canada will continue efforts to increase bird model robustness relative to habitat disturbance and initiate new trend monitoring, with a focus on uncommon bird species. Future updates will be provided as the program continues.


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