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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ivory-billed Field of Dreams?

Just read an interesting quote from an article (here) in the latest issue of The Auk:
An underlying assumption in avian habitat management is that if the manager can provide habitat with appropriate structure at all relevant scales, the target bird species will find and use it. Many of us call this the "Field of Dreams" hypothesis, referring to the movie of that name in which the character played by Kevin Costner hears a voice saying, "if you build it, they will come." Costner's character builds his baseball field and long-dead ballplayers show up, though it takes a while, and not all humans can see the ballplayers, which perhaps has parallels with current Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) management.

Wait a minute...did they just equate trying to save Ivorybills with chasing ghosts?


Anonymous said...

We must understand that trying to find IBWOs is like chasing ghosts to the majority of birders and ornithologists now.

The non-believers are beginning to far outweight the believers.

Thus the amazing comparison in the AUK. Ouch, that has got to hurt Dr. Fitzpatrick.

Anonymous said...

We have evidence in both directions. Doug Gill throws some "grass seed" on an ag field in Maryland, and bingo, instead grassland bird heaven. He had stuff showing up in the first year that hadn't been seen on Maryland's Eastern Shore in decades. Grasshopper Sparrows. Dickcissels. Where did they come from? Where had they been?

The contrary - lots of great offshore habitat for seabirds. Puffins don't start using it until Kress puts out some phony puffins and plays puffin calls.

Some people ascribe to the good neighborhood hypothesis. If I don't see my kind living there, I won't live there, even though it may be really great habitat. Will I buy my dream house if the cars in the neighborhood are all beat-up pickups and tricked-out, souped-up big American metal? Or do I gravitate to the neighborhoods full of Volvos and Subarus, figuring "my kind" lives there?

Dave said...

Managers need to remember that with some species, habitat is fluid and very dependent on disturbance regime. Ivorybills depended not on big trees per se, but on stands of big *dead* trees. They ripped into trees whose bark would defeat all lesser birds. Tanner's classic study may have misled Fitzgerald et. al. into presuming more site loyalty than the birds in fact possess; the ones spotted at Cache River two years ago could be feasting on Katrina-killed trees by now - who knows?

All that aside, though, my point is this: can managers learn to manage for the unpredictable and the unforseen? Are they humble enough for that? Are our ecological reserves large enough and resilient enough to allow that?

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