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Data for: Causal mechanisms for negative impacts of energy development inform management triggers for sagebrush birds


Latif, Quresh; Van Lanen, Nicholas; Chabot, Eric; Pavlacky, David (2023), Data for: Causal mechanisms for negative impacts of energy development inform management triggers for sagebrush birds, Dryad, Dataset,


Estimated population trends can identify declining species to focus biological conservation, but monitoring may fail to illuminate causes of population change and strategies for reversing declines. Monitoring programs can relate trends with environmental attributes to test causal hypotheses, but typical analytical approaches do not explicitly support causal inference, diluting available data for informing conservation. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) extended Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions with a quasi-experimental sampling design over a 10-year period (2010–2019) to evaluate impacts of oil and gas development on sagebrush birds within the Atlantic Rim Natural Gas Development Project in southern Wyoming. We analyzed resulting data using a multi-scale community occupancy model to estimate trends in species occupancy and richness relevant to management triggers. Additionally, we employed path analysis to evaluate mechanisms underlying observed trends to inform potential management responses. Fine-scale occupancy for sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) declined within the high-development stratum at a rate sufficient to meet an a priori management trigger established by the BLM. Two additional sagebrush-associated species, Brewer’s (Spizella breweri) and sagebrush sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis), exhibited negative development relationships with trend, as did overall species richness, and richness of grassland, sagebrush, and generalist guilds. We identified well pad density and invasive plants associated with energy development as causal factors contributing to these negative development impacts. We demonstrate an analytical approach for both estimating occupancy trends and identifying underlying causes to inform conservation action. Reducing the development footprint, including well pad density and associated invasive plants, could help reduce or limit impacts on birds within this landscape.


Bird data were collected in conjunction with the Integrated Monitoring and Bird Conservation Regions program, and environmental data were retrieved primarily from online repositories. Detailed methods are described in the manuscript accompanying this repository.

Usage notes

Scripts for analyzing data in this repository are archived at Data were analyzed in Program R with modeling implemented using the R package nimble. Most data provided here are stored in an R workspace and thus require Program R to access them.


Bureau of Land Management