CHICAGO – (March 8, 2021) Audubon Great Lakes, a regional leader in conservation, recently launched a new interactive data tool called the Marsh Bird Data Hub to help conservationists and land managers understand wetlands in the Calumet and inform decision making around restoration efforts to recover imperiled marsh bird populations.
The tool also provides nature lovers and environmental advocates an opportunity to learn more about secretive marsh birds that are hard to see such as the Least Bittern and Virginia Rail and why wetland conservation is important for these declining species.
“Wetlands are in trouble across the Calumet region due to years of pollution, altered hydrology, climate change and invasive species and it will take sustained efforts to maintain them for the future,” said Stephanie Beilke, Conservation Manager at Audubon Great Lakes. “Interactive maps and data in the Data Hub allow all conservation groups working on the ground to make smart, science-based decisions about where to protect and restore our most vulnerable wetlands that will benefit birds, wildlife and the community.”
Since 2015, Audubon Great Lakes has led marsh bird monitoring and recovery efforts that have informed habitat restoration in the Calumet region. Marsh birds can serve as excellent indicators on the health of wetlands – by surveying their populations and habitats, scientists gain key insights into current conditions and trends that inform priority areas for restoration work that will be the most beneficial for birds and people.
The Marsh Bird Data Hub was created with data from Audubon’s Calumet Marsh Bird Monitoring Program, which has engaged over 30 volunteers and 15 conservation partners at 32 wetlands sites across the region and incorporates data including marsh bird data, drone and satellite imagery, invasive species presence and water level. By looking at this data scientists are able to better understand the health and condition of the region’s remaining marshes, and how marsh birds are responding to restoration efforts.
“Using data like marsh bird populations, we are already seeing signs of imperiled species such as Least Bittern returning to Calumet which had not been active at the site in over a decade,” said Refugio Mariscal, Conservation Data Coordinator for Audubon Great Lakes. “Not only will the tool be critical in helping us plan where to undertake marsh restoration projects, but since it’s freely available and easily accessible, other organizations and agencies will be able to use it to prioritize habitat most in need of restoration so we can all work together to improve habitat for a suite of declining species.”
The extensive wetlands of the Calumet region are among the most important places in the region for marsh birds, serving as a major stopover area and providing critical breeding grounds for Least Bittern, Common Gallinule and Pied-billed Grebe. The tool will also help inform restoration work to improve the quality of habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife and communities that have long suffered from environmental injustices.
Organizations and agencies are able to use the tool to learn how management actions are influencing marsh bird populations at their properties across the region and find out where marsh bird species are present on their properties, how water levels are shifting over time, and how these variables may change year-to-year in response to management and major weather events. This enables decision-makers to consider how raising and lowering water levels with water control structures—would benefit surrounding communities.
“By taking a regional approach with partners, we are more confident our conservation work will provide much-needed habitat for birds and other wildlife, and help our local communities,” said Chip O’Leary, Deputy Director of Resource Management at the Forest Preserves of Cook County. “We are beginning to see projects meld together to create larger landscapes of habitat and we are also able to rely on our conservation partners in the Calumet to build a bigger system together. While we may never rebuild the natural wonders of the region, we are on a clear pathway to maximizing nature in the Calumet Region.”
The Marsh Bird Data Hub is part of a larger Audubon Great Lakes restoration planning initiative funded by The Walder Foundation. To access the Marsh Bird Data Hub, visit https://gl.audubon.org/birds/marsh-bird-monitoring
About Audubon Great Lakes
Audubon Great Lakes is a regional office of Audubon, learn more at gl.audubon.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.
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