New Audubon Study Will Guide Bird Habitat Restoration in Colorado River Delta

Bird abundance and diversity stand to benefit from more informed and targeted conservation planning.
Colorado River delta. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob

COLORADO RIVER DELTA, MEXICO—A new tool will better support habitat in the Colorado River Delta through identifying key areas for restoration, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Management. This significant scientific contribution will allow for optimizing limited water and financial resources in the Colorado River Delta, which, because of significant restoration efforts, is coming back to life with birds and other wildlife.

“We’re really pleased that we can remove the guess work for identifying the best sites in the Delta for restoration in one of the world’s most important bottle necks for birds,” said Joanna Grand, Audubon’s Director of Spatial Conservation Planning and lead author for the study. “This tool allows us to select for bird abundance and diversity, and with proper investments on the ground, will help restore an ecosystem that was on its way to disappearance due to upstream water development.”

The National Audubon Society led the study in collaboration with Pronatura Noroeste (a Mexico-based environmental nonprofit), the United States Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, University of Arizona, University of Colorado, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“Audubon’s analytic expertise, combined with Pronatura Noroeste’s extensive monitoring data record, enabled us to develop an innovative approach to restoration that should improve outcomes for birds,” said Stefanny Villagómez, expert avian Conservation Biologist with Pronatura Noroeste.

This study builds on several others over the past few years including a study from the International Boundary and Water Commission demonstrating that Bird Abundance and Diversity Increased after the Pulse Flow and a study from Audubon which measured just how critical the Delta is for bird migration.

“Our partnerships with environmental groups and governments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border has allowed us to significantly improve the quality of habitat in the Colorado River Delta,” said Jennifer Pitt, Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director, and author on the study. “This study is an incredible tool we can use to push our efforts even further while being responsible stewards of valuable Colorado River resources.”

The study utilized machine learning and systematic conservation planning techniques. By predicting bird distributions across simulated landscapes with varying restoration scenarios, the research identified the most crucial locations for restoration. This data will be shared with partners and land managers in the region, and has potential applications for restoration work in regions beyond the Colorado River Delta.

For more context, read an article from Joanna Grand and Jennifer Pitt.

To read the journal article: Strategic restoration planning for land birds in the Colorado River Delta, Mexico.


Press Contact:

Joey Kahn,
Communications Director, Water Conservation; 415.494.9198