Species Distribution Modeling of Threatened and Endangered Species Throughout Region 5 of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Focus Area

Environmental Considerations in Planning








2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

Currently field offices in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) use a variety of methods to determine if species suitable habitat is in a project area. Recently the New York and Virginia Field offices have worked with their Natural Heritage Programs (NYNHP and VANHP) to develop statewide species distribution models for some of the species that occur in each state. These efforts, though part of separate projects, have utilized very similar, and in some cases the same, environmental and species datasets, modeling methods and statistical software packages. We recognize that species to not adhere to state boundaries and would like to further this effort with both the NYNHP and VANHP to develop rangewide species distribution models starting with species that occur in the Northeast, the Service’s Region 5. For this project, NYNHP and VANHP will fully synchronize the regional data inputs and modeling methods used, so that regional products are developed wholly and not via manipulative post-development state boundary edge matching. The Service and Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) can work together to identify species for modeling by prioritizing the workload associated with FHWA projects and the number of states or field offices that would benefit from this effort. Ultimately, the models will be uploaded into the Service’s IPaC database and would provide a consistent approach to determining if suitable habitat is present. Task 1 – Partner Collaboration – deliverables will include materials developed for efficient and consistent communication with partners, and meetings with state and Service supporters and contributors. Task 2 – Data Development and Data Gathering – will include the identification of the set of species that will be modeled in this project, via communications in Task 1. Task 2 will also include the gathering, development, and assembly of species occurrence data for those initial species to be modeled. Task 3 – Species Distribution Model Development – The NYNHP and VANHP will work together to assemble and develop whole-region environmental variable layers. Model development will be inductive, using the Random Forests modeling package in the R statistical environment. Models will be evaluated using the correlation coefficient and Area Under the Receiver Operator Curve (AUC), and other statistics, and assessed for accuracy by testing how well sites of known occurrence are predicted when excluded from model. Task 4 – Review and Revision – Project leads will provide reviewers with a concise draft methods report, including descriptions of input data and map outputs as GIS shapefiles and layer files, for their review. In general, project leads and reviewers will collaboratively identify ways that models may be improved, and efforts will be made to incorporate these suggestions in a final model revision, as feasible based on scope and budget. Task 5 – Reporting and Final Delivery – Final model outputs and reports will be provided to Service staff, to all collaborators on a particular species model, and to representative partners in each state in the species’ Region 5 range. Model outputs will include GIS shapefiles indicating predicted suitable habitat for the given species.

Urgency and Payoff

Refined potential habitat layers are currently needed to make the Service’s IPaC system more useful to FHWA for project planning. The benefit to both FHWA and the Service would be a more focused conservation effort on areas where species are likely to occur, thus minimizing project review time. The first steps in developing these rangewide models are partner collaboration and data gathering of the environmental variables that can be used to predict the presence of suitable habitat. These steps will lay the groundwork for future modeling efforts of multiple species in the region.

Suggested By

Sumalee Hoskin US Fish and Wildlife Service 804-693-6694 ext. 24

[email protected]