Documenting Management Actions: The “KEY” to Evaluating Habitat Management for Non-breeding Waterbirds

Wetland managers need to monitor waterbirds and their habitats during the nonbreeding period to improve the efficacy of management decision making (Lyons et al. 2008), but are often limited in terms of time and staff. Therefore, Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) developed a multifaceted monitoring protocol aimed at obtaining Key information necessary for managers to learn and make better decisions. The protocol not only enables rapid assessment of waterbird use and habitat conditions, it also allows managers to document, track and evaluate routine habitat management activities at each management unit. Accounting for management costs in terms of waterbird use-days and/or vegetation response will become increasingly relevant in times of constricting budgets. Moreover, the documentation of activities allows continuity even with staff turnover, leaving an important legacy that may otherwise be lost. What makes IWMM truly unique is precisely this adaptive approach to monitoring, documenting and learning.

As a relatively new tool, local managers are using the IWMM protocol to quantify waterbird use and habitat conditions at numerous wetlands across the country, and entering this information in the IWMM-AKN database. However, most IWMM participants are not recording and tracking management actions. This step is essential in adaptive monitoring and management, and the IWMM Monitoring Manual’s SOP 6 incorporates a broad range of management activities to select from. The IWMM Project and Regional Contacts stand ready to assist local managers with exploring this element in a way that enables managers to learn from and improve upon the creative application of the management actions tracked by IWMM. Recording management actions along with waterbird counts, unit conditions and annual vegetation survey data ensures that the goal of IWMM is met: to inform decisions regarding the management of wetlands for non-breeding waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. It also leaves a legacy and is KEY to the vision of IWMM -A continental landscape where non-breeding waterbirds have the right habitat, in the right place, at the right time.
Lyons, J.E., M.C. Runge, H.P. Laskowski and W.L. Kendall. 2008. Monitoring in the context of structured decision-making and adaptive management. The Journal of Wildlife Management 72: 1683-1692.