Long-term monitoring of populations is of paramount importance to understanding responses of organisms to global environmental change and to evaluating whether conservation practices are yielding intended results through time (Wiens 2009). The population status of many shorebird species, the focus of this volume, remain poorly known. Long-distance migrant shorebirds have proven particularly difficult to monitor, in part because of their highly inaccessible regions. As migrant shorebirds travel the length of the hemisphere, the congregate and disperse in ways that vary among species, locations, and years, presenting serious challenges to designing and implementing monitoring programs. Rigorous field and quantitative methods that estimate population size and monitor trends are vitally needed to direct and evaluate effective conservation measures. Many management efforts depend on unbiased population size estimates; for examples, the shorebird conservation plans for both Canada and the United States seek to restore populations to levels calculated for the 1970s based on the best information available from existing surveys. Further, federal wildlife agencies within the United States and Canada have mandates to understand the state of their nations' resources under various conventions for the protection of migratory birds. Accurate estimates of population size are vital statistics for a variety of conservation activities, such as prioritizing species for conservation action and setting management targets. Areas of essential habitat, such as those designated under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, the Important Bird Areas program of BirdLife Internationals and the National Audubon Society, or Canada's National Wildlife Areas program, are all evaluated on the basis of proportions of species' populations which they contain. The size, and trends in size, of a species' population are considered key information for assessing its vulnerability and subsequent listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Canadian Species at Risk Act. To meet the need for information on population size and trends, shorebird biologists from Canada and the United States proposed a shared blueprint for shorebird monitoring across the Western Hemisphere in the late 1990s; this effort was undertaken in concert with the development of the Canadian and the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plans. Soon thereafter, partners in the monitoring effort adopted the name "Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring" (PRISM). Among the primary objectives of PRISM were to estimate the population sizes and trends of breeding North American shorebirds and describe their distributions. PRISM members evaluated ongoing and potential monitoring approached to address 74 taxa (including subspecies) and proposed a combination of arctic and boreal breeding surveys, temperate breeding and non-breeding surveys, and neotropical surveys.
Additional Publication Details
Foreword: contributions of Arctic PRISM to monitoring western hemispheric shorebirds