Habitat Tool Prioritizes Saltmarsh Sparrow Habitat
The ACJV has adopted a long-term population objective of sustaining 25,000 breeding Saltmarsh Sparrows. To achieve this objective, we must first identify where the highest-priority habitat exists to support the population. To this end, the Saltmarsh Sparrow Working Group has developed a Habitat Prioritization Tool to identify the most important marsh patches for Saltmarsh Sparrows. The tool has selected from a universe of more than 13,000 marsh patches to identify and prioritize a final set of 1,078 marsh patches most capable of supporting Saltmarsh Sparrows. These patches were then ranked from most to least important based on a set of factors known or likely to impact Sparrow populations such as tidal restrictions, Phragmites occurrence, and predicted ability for marshes to migrate and/or keep up with sea level rise.
Our Saltmarsh Sparrow Habitat Prioritization Tool can be used to guide land protection and restoration efforts toward the most important patches. It does not, however, identify where to apply which management strategies. To begin to answer those questions, the ACJV is working with the University of Connecticut to develop a series of GIS data layers that will help to identify where managers could have the greatest population impact through 1) managed marsh migration activities in forested landscapes and 2) manipulation of existing tide gates to dampen flooding tides and storm surges during the nesting season. Their work will also identify the total acreage of Thin Layer Deposition (TLD) application that would be required to have a population impact, although it will not guide where to apply TLD on the ground. Collectively, these tools and data products will help to facilitate the right conservation in the right places to help us reach our population objective.