Colony Island Network Design and Implementation (CINDI) to Recover Waterbirds in the Gulf of Mexico: Pilot Study
Colonial nesting waterbirds (wading birds, skimmers, gulls, terns, and pelicans) congregate annually to breed on small coastal islands that are critically important to their ecology. These islands, which provide refuges for waterbirds to breed with reduced predation and disturbance, support hundreds of thousands of waterbirds each year. However, many of these islands are eroding leaving coastal managers and stakeholders with the important task of deciding which islands should be restored. In the last decade, large investments of money (>$24 million) have been committed towards colony island projects along the Gulf coast, as recognition grows that existing islands are facing threats that can leave entire areas without nesting habitat. These expensive projects are proceeding case-by-case with no quantitative tools to focus funding on islands and sites that have the greatest potential to benefit bird populations. This project serves as a pilot study to explore the feasibility of a geographic information system (GIS)-based prioritization tool that accounts for bio-geo-physical constraints, as well as economic feasibility and social factors, to help managers prioritize a network of islands on the Texas coast for which island creation or rehabilitation would provide the maximum conservation benefit for colonial waterbirds.