Riparian corridors in the southwestern deserts are among the most threatened bird habitat types in the United States of America. In the early 1900s, dams were built along the length of the lower Colorado River, the primary water source for the Southwest, to meet the increasing water needs of a rapidly growing human population. These changes altered annual flood regimes and disconnected the river from its historic floodplain, which dramatically reduced riparian corridors and affected the organisms that inhabit them. In this case study, we present an overview of efforts to conserve riparian birds, restore their habitat, and monitor their populations along the Colorado River. The goal of this module is to prepare students to think like a professional conservation practitioner who makes decisions that maximize conservation outcomes in light of limitations in local opportunities, budget, and political will for conservation. It also discusses how to determine effectiveness of conservation action, and manage adaptively to further optimize conservation outcomes as new data become available. It uses avian population data to describe the role of monitoring in assessing conservation needs, assessing the effectiveness of conservation actions, and the unique opportunity bird monitoring lends for citizen science by the birding public in conservation science.
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