Conservation Partners connecting working lands conservation from the Gulf of Mexico to the High Plains with the vision of a sustainable landscape of natural resources resilient to the threats and stressors associated with our changing world.

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    Mottled Duck Brood

    Photo courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Evaluating a Mottled Duck Habitat Decision Support Tool for Improved Outcomes

Formal Title: Evaluation and Refinement of a Decision Support Tool for Mottled Duck Habitat Conservation in the Western Gulf Coast

Research Focus: Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula)

Conservation & Management Challenges:

Habitat loss and degradation due to urban expansion and other human activities have raised concerns for the Western Gulf Coast Mottled Duck population.  This species relies on tidal, palustrine, and agricultural wetlands as well as grasslands for all of its life cycle needs.  The disappearance of suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat is believed to be the primary factor associated with long-term population decline of the mottled duck.  One of the first science projects initiated by the GCP LCC was development of a spatially-explicit Decision Support Tool (DST) to help guide conservation and management of habitat for breeding Mottled Ducks in coastal Louisiana and Texas.  An important next step is evaluating the performance of the models outputs by comparing them to independent datasets.

Research Overview:

Conservation of wetlands and grasslands is a priority for the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (recommended in its Mottled Duck Conservation Plan) as well as for the GCP LCC.  The Mottled Duck DST provides science-based information about where, on a spatial scale, to apply these actions and achieve the greatest biological return on investment.  This project will evaluate the performance of the DST by comparing DST model outputs with survey data gathered from within the Mottled Duck’s range in the Western Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana.  Evaluation of model output is essential to ensure effectiveness of the conservation guidance provided by the DST.  The evaluation will provide a quantified measure of accuracy for DST identifications of suitable nesting and brood rearing habitat.  The survey data will also be used to determine which landscape parameters (such as connectivity, habitat patch size) explain significant variation in Mottled duck density.  This information will improve the accuracy of the DST, thereby improving conservation outcomes that have been guided by the tool.



Based on results from the helicopter surveys, the combination of input parameters we used to build the DST appear to be appropriate for identifying suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitats in the WGC. MODU-DST output was ≥79% in agreement with ground conditions during the time of the survey. It appears that most discrepancies between MODU-DST output and ground conditions during the time of the survey stemmed from changes in land use over time.  

Download the final report.


This 6-month project was initiated in July 2015 and was completed in December 2015.  The Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative is funding this project.

Access the final Mottled Duck Evaluation report on ScienceBase


Principal Investigators:  Dr. Bart M. Ballard, 700 University Blvd, MSC 218, Kingsville, TX 78363;

Anastasia Krainyk, 700 University Blvd, MSC 218, Kingsville, TX 78363;


Landscape Conservation Cooperative Point-of-Contact: Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, National Wetlands Research Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, LA 70506  

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