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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Nicholas J. Van Lanen; Adrian P. Monroe; Cameron L. Aldridge
Publication Date: 2023

Land management priorities and decisions may result in population declines for non-target wildlife species. In the western United States, large-scale removal of conifer from sagebrush ecosystems (Artemisia spp.) is occurring to recover greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations and may result in pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) habitat loss. Jay populations have experienced long-term declines, due to unknown causes, resulting in a recent petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. We developed a Bayesian hierarchical model of jay abundance, using 13 years of point count data (2008–2020) collected across the western United States, to estimate regional population trends, model habitat requirements, assess conifer removal effects on jays, and generate hypotheses regarding jay population declines. Our model included climate and landcover covariates and regional trends in pinyon jay density. We applied our modeled habitat relationships to map predicted pinyon jay density, given 2008 and 2020 resource conditions, and map density changes from 2008 to 2020. Our results indicate pinyon jay populations are declining within Bird Conservation Region 16. Jay density was positively associated with sagebrush cover, Palmer Drought Severity Index, and pinyon-juniper cover. Conversely, jay populations were negatively associated with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). We found higher pinyon jay densities within locations possessing both sagebrush and pinyon-juniper cover; conditions characteristic of phase I and II conifer encroachment which are preferentially targeted for conifer removal to restore sagebrush communities. Conifer removal, if conducted at locations with high pinyon jay densities, is therefore likely to negatively affect jay abundance.

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Citation: Van Lanen, Nicholas J.; Monroe, Adrian P.; Aldridge, Cameron L. 2023. A hidden cost of single species management: habitat-relationships reveal potential negative effects of conifer removal on a non-target species. Biological Conservation 280:109959.

Cataloging Information

  • climate change
  • conifer removal
  • Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
  • hierarchical abundance model
  • non-target species
  • Pinyon Jay
  • pinyon-juniper
  • sagebrush
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Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 67805