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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Priority Bird Conservation Areas in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta


Conserving bird populations is a key goal for management of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and is likely to have effects well beyond its boundaries. To inform bird- conservation strategies, we identified Priority Bird Conservation Areas for riparian landbirds and waterbirds in the Delta, defined as the most valuable 5% of the landscape for each group. We synthesized data from 2,547 surveys for riparian landbirds and 7,820 surveys for waterbirds to develop predictive distribution models, which then informed spatial prioritization analyses. We identified a total of 26,019 ha that are a high priority for conserving riparian landbirds, waterbirds, or both, representing the most important places in the Delta to protect and manage, as well as strategic areas where adjacent restoration could expand valuable habitat. These Priority Bird Conservation Areas include the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Cosumnes River Preserve, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and bufferlands that surround the Sacramento County Regional Sanitation District. However, we also found that over 60% of the Priority Bird Conservation Areas are not currently protected, indicating a vulnerability to changes in land cover or land use. We recommend advancing strategies for bird conservation in the Delta by developing more specific objectives and priorities, extending these analyses to include other bird species, and planning to mitigate the loss of Priority Bird Conservation Areas where they are most vulnerable to land cover change. The predictive models and analysis framework we developed represent the current state of the science on areas important to bird conservation, while also providing a foundation for an evolving bird-conservation strategy that reflects the Delta’s continuously evolving knowledge base and landscape.

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