Putting the Pieces Together: The Loon Recovery Initiative
The Loon Recovery Initiative was created to identify gaps in our knowledge of loons; to implement new studies to establish the relative importance of a large number of physical, chemical and cultural factors on the presence, abundance and reproductive success of loons; to develop and implement new management plans to help loons cope with the growing impacts of human activities; and to increase our organizational capacity and public involvement in safeguarding our loon population. The Initiative also provides a conceptual framework to integrate our educational products and programs with new and ongoing research and management activities to preserve loons.
Several factors have made this a fortuitous time to formalize a plan for the loon’s recovery in New Hampshire: the state of our knowledge about loons and their needs is increasing as a result of LPC’s research and the completion of LPC’s powerful relational database; our management has increased our loon populations despite negative pressures on loons; we have new products and new staff to further our long-term support from the public, and the business and corporate communities; and, we have developed and tested methods to convey the results of our studies to the New Hampshire Legislature.
One result of the Loon Recovery Initiative is the New Hampshire Loon Recovery Plan, a document that formalizes the relationships and steps needed to restore and maintain a healthy and biologically stable population of loons throughout the state. Loons and other wildlife are exposed to multiple stressors concurrently and throughout their lifetimes. LPC’s data provide the basis for the development and testing of mathematical models to evaluate the effects, and predict the risks, of these threats to loons.
Loon habitat suitability models developed in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have assessed the relative importance of natural and anthropogenic features of New Hampshire’s lakes in defining and predicting loon distribution and abundance. These models and historical occupancy of lakes by loons have allowed LPC to estimate the loon carrying capacity of New Hampshire’s lakes (the greatest number of loons our lakes could be expected to hold), a critical step in creating population models and setting goals for LPC’s efforts to increase our loon populations.
Population models created for LPC’s Loon Recovery Plan determine the long-term survival rates and reproductive success needed to maintain a stable and viable loon population; measure the effects of current and predicted future stressors on our loon population; and determine the types and amounts of management and education needed to mitigate these stressors now and in the future. These models are an essential component of population viability analyses, which provide probability estimates for specific population endpoints (e.g., the probability of a 50% decline in our loon population) under different stressor scenarios. The models reveal site-specific risks to our loon populations, forecast future population and mortality trends, and set science-based goals for LPC’s work to safeguard New Hampshire’s loon population. The Loon Recovery Plan itself serves as a model to plan and implement the recovery of other threatened or endangered species in New Hampshire, as well as the recovery of loons in other states.