18 September 2021

Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need

There are several different levels or lists of species whose populations warrant some sort of monitoring and/or protections. These include federal and state endangered, threatened ("T&E") and special concern lists; and the species of greatest conservation need generated by the US state-level Wildlife Action Plans. I've served on the Michigan T&E technical committees for birds and for insects since 2014.

More recently, an effort has been underway to compile lists of Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN) to more accurately reflect species' ranges and harness the management power and shared priorities of multiple organizations across regional landscapes. These lists start with all the species listed on each of the states' Wildlife Action Plans, determine which have populations that are primarily within the Midwest region, and then utilize expert opinion regarding concern levels, threats, and other factors. Two of these lists have been completed: the 15-state Southeast Region and the 13-state Northeast Region

Over the past year, I participated on two taxa teams (birds and Odonata) for the 13-state Midwest Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need sponsored by the Midwest Landscape Initiative of the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA). There were just 8 experts on the Odonata taxa team; I represented Michigan along with Dave Cuthrell of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

13 states in MAFWA region

Data on Canadian provinces were considered although as this is a US-based initiative, representatives from Canada were not involved in the committees. There is also some overlap in US states in the various regions, accounted for in the lists.

Nine Michigan dragonfly species are on the list of Midwest RSGCN; 10 species were designated "Watchlist - Assessment Priority" due to there being concern, but insufficient or variable data across the states; and 2 species (Ebony Boghaunter, Williamsonia fletcheri, and Brown Spiketail, Cordulegaster bilineata) are on the Watchlist but "deferred" to other regions that have greater proportions of the population. I have updated the Michigan Odonata Survey website with the Midwest RSGCN species, where you can see all the species that have some sort of conservation or rarity status.

If you'd like a wider view, take a look at the data table which can be viewed here. The table contains all the data on all taxa from all states. You'll there is the ability to sort and filter, similar to spreadsheets like Excel. To just see Michigan's Odonata, go to Filter and choose Where Taxa is Invertebrates: Dragonflies and Damselflies and add the condition Where MI_Occurs is Yes. You'll see many other ways to filter and sort the list. There are a lot of columns, some of which indicate the various criteria used to make determinations. If you are interested in the details of methodology, there is a large report with appendices, and there will be a website coming out in the next month or so where all of the methods and data will be much more easily accessible (leave a comment if you would like a copy of the report sooner). 

Meanwhile, the Illinois Natural History Survey is hosting an online presentation on September 28 that will explain the process and give an overview of the results.

If you're interested in the bird list, I've written a similar blog post over at Net Results.