Spatial Integration of Biological and Social Objectives to Identify Priority Landscapes for Waterfowl Habitat Conservation

Open-File Report 2019-1029
By: , and 



Waterfowl population management and habitat conservation compose one of the oldest and most successful adaptive management frameworks in the world. Since its inception, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) has emphasized strategically targeted conservation investments in regions that most affect waterfowl population dynamics. By 2012, regional conservation had progressively become more science-based and strategic: many migratory bird partnerships had initiated or completed projects on mapping and modeling waterfowl distribution and abundances using geospatial techniques. However, when developing a map depicting and titled “Areas of Greatest Continental Significance to North American Ducks, Geese, and Swans” for the 2012 NAWMP Revision, waterfowl professionals articulated the need for improved decision frameworks and use of consistent datasets for refining large-scale spatial products depicting priority areas for waterfowl and people. This report describes a framework for developing a spatial value model to support the identification of North American geographies of importance to waterfowl during the breeding and non-breeding periods and to resource users who could potentially support (financially and (or) politically) waterfowl habitat conservation. Objectives used to identify priority geographies were determined through a collaborative process of the NAWMP Science Support Team, Priority Landscapes Committee (PLC), and other experts in the fields of waterfowl biology and ecology, environmental science, and human dimensions. ArcGIS Desktop was used as the platform for managing, analyzing, combining and displaying the spatial data as well as producing new data through spatial analysis functions. Thirty-eight spatial layers were developed, and several composite spatially explicit products (maps of North America) were produced based on PLC recommendations. The composite products have extensive similarities to the 2012 NAWMP map depicting areas of greatest continental significance to North American waterfowl. There are also some differences, especially in regions of the high Arctic and in Mexico. These differences between spatial value model maps and the 2012 NAWMP output likely arose from inclusion of social objectives, reduced dependence on expert opinion to generate abundance estimates, lack of population surveys in some regions and availability of expanded survey data in other regions, and use of model-based waterfowl population estimates for some unsurveyed areas.

The structured decision-making framework application in this study is discussed, and the appropriate use of the products and their limitations are outlined. Additionally, options for future improvements are presented by identifying gaps in data collection, waterfowl-habitat association assumptions, and uncertainties related to social objectives. These spatial products are intended for use by national, regional, and province/state level wildlife professionals to aid their decisions in targeting waterfowl habitat conservation.

Suggested Citation

Krainyk, A., Lyons, J.E., Brasher, M.G., Humburg, D.D., Soulliere, G.J., Coluccy, J.M., Petrie, M.J., Howerter, D.W., Slattery, S.M., Rice, M.B., and Fuller, J.C., 2019, Spatial integration of biological and social objectives to identify priority landscapes for waterfowl habitat conservation: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1029, 41 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Benefits, Limitations, and the Future
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Members of the Priority Landscapes Committee
  • Appendix 2. Purpose and Function of Priority Landscapes Committee
  • Appendix 3. Means-Ends Network Diagram of Waterfowl Habitat Conservation Decision Context
  • Appendix 4. Biological Objectives: Duck Species Objectives Hierarchy
  • Appendix 5. Biological Objectives: Goose and Swan Species Objectives Hierarchy
  • Appendix 6. Social Objectives Hierarchy

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Spatial integration of biological and social objectives to identify priority landscapes for waterfowl habitat conservation
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2019-1029
DOI 10.3133/ofr20191029
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description Document: vii, 41 p.; Additional Report Piece; Data Release