Cause-Effect Monitoring Migratory Landbirds at Regional Scales, Oil Sands Region

Cause-Effect Monitoring Data

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.

Dataset 1 (2011–2013) on boreal bird species associated with 41 representative habitat types within the Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake oil sands areas are available. Data are available for 44 873 individual birds representing 142 species from 3 685 independent sites sampled using point count surveys. Uncommon and rare habitat types were surveyed at higher sampling intensity. This activity monitors how birds respond to habitat and disturbance.

Dataset 2 (2014) on boreal bird species across a gradient of oil sands development–related disturbance (low to very high) within the Athabasca oil sands area is available. Data are available for 12 062 individual birds representing 141 species from 884 sample sites. Sample sites include both survey grids of 9 point count sites and matched pairs of point count sites (1 point count in pipeline, seismic line, wellsite or road, and 1 point count in adjacent undisturbed habitat). This activity monitors how birds respond to a gradient of oil sands–specific exploration, extraction and development activities at a regional scale.

These data contribute to:
a.improving the design of monitoring programs;
b.explaining observed trends in populations (why bird populations are increasing or decreasing);
c.predicting population sizes within the oil sands area; and
d.assessing the individual, additive and cumulative effects of oil sands and other resource development on boreal birds.


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