The 2017 update to avian conservation assessment scores is now available!

AVIAN CONSERVATION ASSESSMENT DATABASE: PROCESS

The Partners in Flight (PIF) Avian Conservation Assessment Database (ACAD) is the repository for biological information used and generated by the PIF species assessment process, a peer-reviewed, scientific methodology for analyzing, evaluating, and categorizing information related to the conservation of birds. The PIF assessment process is designed to complement the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and dovetails with the thresholds used in that scheme to identify species of more moderate conservation concern, at both continental and regional scales, in addition to species of high stewardship responsibility. The PIF assessment further uses the concept of stewardship responsibility to focus conservation actions geographically in areas of core populations for vulnerable species.

The PIF Species Assessment Process was first described by Hunter et al. in 1992, and since then has been a major focus of PIF’s International Science Committee (PIFSC), which has refined and improved it over the years. In 2000, Carter et al. published a detailed account of the process in the Auk, and in the same issue, the AOU Conservation Committee published a scientific critique (Beissinger et al. 2000). The AOU generally endorsed the PIF process, although they also noted some philosophical concerns. In response, the PIFSC further refined the process, addressing many of the AOU’s concerns in advance of the 2004 publication of the PIF North American Landbird Plan (Rich et al. 2004).

Despite many refinements over the years, the basic tenets of the PIF species assessment process have remained the same. The process evaluates six biological vulnerability factors for each species: Population Size (PS), Breeding Distribution (BD), Non-breeding Distribution (ND), Threats to Breeding (TB), Threats to Non-breeding (TN), and Population Trend (PT). Whereas PS, BD and ND are evaluated at a global scale, TB, TN and PT are evaluated at continental and regional scales. Two area importance measures are also assessed at the regional scale: Relative Density (RD) and Percent of Population (%Pop). Based on a set of carefully defined quantitative and qualitative thresholds, each factor is assigned a score ranging from 1 (to reflect very low concern or importance) to 5 (to reflect the highest concern or importance). The factor scores for each species are then combined in different ways to categorize species by concern level or stewardship responsibility and produce various lists, such as the PIF Watch List.

The PIF assessment process makes use of the best available data to assign scores for each category, however the process can also be applied using equivalent qualitative thresholds. In addition to various published sources of information, the assessment makes use of data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), particularly for assigning PT, PS and RD for landbirds in the U.S. and Canada. In Latin America, the process relies more heavily on expert opinion, although surrogate data sets on land cover trends are used to help assess population trends. The PIFSC is now also using data from Ebird to help evaluate RD.

The PIF Species Assessment Process, including any recent changes to the methodology, is described in full detail in the PIF Species Assessment Handbook. We recommend all users of PIF species assessment data become familiar with this document.

Any user of the PIF Database should have a copy of this document on hand, which clarifies all aspects of the database and the processes in developing and using the species assessment scores.


Bird Conservancy of the Rockies 2017