Multi-targeted management of upland game birds at the agroecosystem interface in midwestern North America

Marlis R. Douglas, Whitney J.B. Anthonysamy, Steven M. Mussmann, Mark A. Davis, Wade Louis, Michael E. Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its imperative, biodiversity conservation is chronically underfunded, a deficiency that often forces management agencies to prioritize. Single-species recovery thus becomes a focus (often with socio-political implications), whereas a more economical approach would be the transition to multi-targeted management (= MTM). This challenge is best represented in Midwestern North America where biodiversity has been impacted by 300+ years of chronic anthropogenic disturbance such that native tall-grass prairie is now supplanted by an agroecosystem. Here, we develop an MTM with a population genetic metric to collaboratively manage three Illinois upland gamebirds: common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus; pheasant), northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus; quail), and threatened-endangered (T&E) greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus; prairie chicken). We first genotyped our study pheasant at 19 microsatellite DNA loci and identified three captive breeding stocks (N = 143; IL Department of Natural Resources) as being significantly bottlenecked, with relatedness >1st-cousin (μR = 0.158). 'Wild' (non-stocked) pheasant [N = 543; 14 Pheasant-Habitat-Areas (PHAs)] were also bottlenecked, significantly interrelated (μR = 0.150) and differentiated (μFST = 0.047), yet distinct from propagation stock. PHAs that encompassed significantly with larger areas also reflected greater effective population sizes (μNE = 43; P<0.007). We juxtaposed these data against previously published results for prairie chicken and quail, and found population genetic structure driven by drift, habitat/climate impacts, and gender-biased selection via hunter-harvest. Each species (hunter-harvested or T&E) is independently managed, yet their composite population genetic baseline provides the quantitative criteria needed for an upland game bird MTM. Its implementation would require agricultural plots to be rehabilitated/reclaimed using a land-sharing/sparing portfolio that differs markedly from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), where sequestered land decreases as agricultural prices escalate. Cost-savings for an MTM would accrue by synchronizing single-species management with a dwindling hunter-harvest program, and by eliminating propagation/stocking programs. This would sustain not only native grasslands and their resident species, but also accelerate conservation at the wildlife-agroecosystem interface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0230735
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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