Managing birds of conservation concern on sandy shores: How much room for future conservation actions is there?

Brooke Maslo, Karen Leu, Todd Pover, Michael A. Weston, Thomas A. Schlacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Resource limitations often prevent the active management required to maintain habitat quality in protected areas. Because restrictions in access or allowable public activities are the sole conservation measure in these locations, an important question to consider is whether species of conservation concern truly benefit from parcels that are shielded from human disturbance. Here, we assess the conservation benefit of protecting birds from human recreation on over 204 km of sandy beaches by (a) estimating the total area of beach-nesting bird habitat that has been created by conservation protections; (b) quantifying the change in nesting habitat extent should further conservation protections be implemented; and (c) providing data to inform future protected area expansion. We use a maximum entropy species distribution modeling approach to estimate the extent and quality of suitable habitat for four beach-nesting bird species of conservation concern under the existing management regime and compare it to scenarios in which the entire study area is either unprotected of fully protected from human disturbance. Managing humans has dramatic conservation returns for least terns and piping plovers, creating extensive nesting habitat that otherwise would not exist. There is considerable scope for conservation gains, potentially tripling the extent of nesting areas. Expanding conservation footprints for American oystercatchers and black skimmers is predicted to enhance the quality of existing nesting areas. The work demonstrates the utility of modeling changes in habitat suitability to inform protected area expansion on ocean beaches and coastal dunes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10976-10988
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


  • beach-nesting birds
  • conservation planning
  • habitat protection
  • species distribution modeling
  • wildlife management

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