Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Understanding landscape constraints on local management decisions


January 2010 - December 2013


Throughout the Great Plains the structure and function of grassland and farmland wildlife communities are increasingly threatened by urbanization and the intensification of agricultural production. Even in areas managed exclusively for wildlife, responses to habitat enhancement is often less than predicted and less than desired by managers and the public. Given the incredible costs of wildlife enhancement projects, understanding why populations and communities fail to respond to apparently suitable habitat improvements is imperative to not only sustaining wildlife populations, but ensuring public support for wildlife programs. Traditionally, assessment of wildlife population responses to habitat improvements are focused on local habitat attributes; however, as habitats are increasingly isolated it is becoming obvious that factors beyond local vegetation and resource distribution may play a role in where species are located or the productivity of local populations. We are working to examine how the availability of suitable habitat across a landscape constrains or facilitates local population responses to grassland bird habitat enhancement programs. To this end we are developing models that relate the distribution and abundance of grassland birds to the availability and suitability of habitats across various spatial scales. By understanding how multi-scalar landscape parameters influence local populations we can betters understand how to successfully manage species and appropriate research, monitoring and management efforts. This research will assist managers and conservation professionals within federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations concerned with the management of grassland communities and protecting grassland bird species.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Jorgensen, C.F., R.J. Stutzman, L. Anderson, S. Decker, L.A. Powell, and J.J. Fontaine. 2013. Choosing a DIVA: a comparison of emerging digital imagery vegetation analysis techniques. Applied Vegetation Science 16:552-560. Doi: 10.1111/avsc.12037 Download  | 
  • Jorgensen, C.F., L.A. Powell, J.J. Lusk, A.A. Bishop and J.J. Fontaine. 2014. Assessing landscape constraints on species abundance: Does the neighborhood limit species response to local habitat conservation programs? Plos One 9:e99339. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099339 Abstract | 


  • Jorgensen, C.F. 2012. Assessing Local and Landscape Constraints on Habitat Management for Grassland and Upland Birds.M.S. Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


  • Jorgensen, C.F., and J.J. Fontaine. 2010. Assessing Landscape and Vegetative Composition at Multiple Scales: What Drives Avian Abundance and Distribution in a Grassland Ecosystem? Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Jorgensen, C.F., and J.J. Fontaine. 2011. Assessing Landscape and Vegetative Composition at Multiple Scales: What Drives Avian Abundance and Distribution in a Grassland Ecosystem? Cooper Society and Association of Field Ornithologists Joint Meeting, Kearney, NE.
  • Jorgensen, C.F., L.A. Powell and J.J. Fontaine. 2011. From patches to landscapes: how spatial scale constrains avian responses to grassland management. Special symposium on grassland bird management. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Des Moines, IA
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 239

Phd Students: 142

Post Docs: 53

University Staff: 240

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 701

Scientific Publications: 1936

Presentations: 4260



  • Joseph FontainePrincipal Investigator
  • Chris JorgensenStudent

Funding Agencies

  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey