Management of U.S. Agricultural Lands Differentially Affects Avian Habitat Connectivity

Justin P. Suraci, Tina G. Mozelewski, Caitlin E. Littlefield, Theresa Nogeire McRae, Ann Sorensen, Brett G. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite frequently being implicated in species declines, agricultural lands may nonetheless play an important role in connecting wildlife populations by serving as movement corridors or stopover sites between areas of high-quality habitat. For many North American bird species, agricultural intensification over the past half century has substantially impacted populations, yet recent studies have noted the potential for supporting avian biodiversity on agricultural lands through the promotion of functional connectivity. To support avian conservation efforts on agricultural lands across the United States, we used publicly available data from eBird to quantify and map the effects of agriculture on habitat suitability (using random forest models) and functional connectivity (via circuit theory) for three focal species that have experienced agriculture-linked declines or range contractions in recent decades: Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), American Black Duck (Anas rubripes), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). Our analysis drew on novel, remotely sensed estimates of agricultural management intensity to quantify the effects of management practices on avian habitat and movement, revealing complex, species-specific relationships between agriculture and habitat value for the three focal species. Rangelands and croplands exhibited relatively high connectivity values for Greater Sage-grouse and Bobolink, respectively, mirroring these species’ strong habitat preferences for open sagebrush and cultivated grasslands. By contrast, American Black Duck migratory connectivity was low on all agricultural cover types. Mapping our model results across each species’ geographic range in the U.S. revealed key areas for agricultural management action to preserve high-quality habitat and connectivity, and we link these spatial recommendations to government incentive programs that can be used to increase wildlife-friendly management on U.S. agricultural lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number746
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • American Black Duck
  • Bobolink
  • Greater Sage-Grouse
  • agroecology
  • circuit theory
  • conservation planning
  • random forest model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Management of U.S. Agricultural Lands Differentially Affects Avian Habitat Connectivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this