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Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP)


Golden-winged Warbler. (Photo:Arni Stinnissen/Audubon Photography Awards)
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a multi-agency effort to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs and develop the science base for managing the agricultural landscape for environmental quality. Project findings are used to guide USDA conservation policy and program development and help conservationists, farmers, and ranchers make more informed conservation decisions.

Assessments in CEAP are carried out at national, regional and watershed scales on cropland, grazing lands, wetlands and for wildlife. The three principal components of CEAP—the national assessments, the watershed assessment studies, and the bibliographies and literature reviews— contribute to building the science base for conservation. That process includes research, modeling, assessment, monitoring and data collection, outreach, and extension education. Focus is being given to translating CEAP science into practice.

A CEAP-Wildlife Conservation study published in December 2017 looked at how “Small Forest Openings Support Shrubland Birds and Native Bees in the Northeast.”[i] While the study was conducted in the heavily forested area of western Massachusetts, there are findings that can apply to other locations in the east, such as the mid-south area. Here is a summary:

• Once prevalent on the landscape, early successional habitats are now rare in the northeastern United States. As a result, populations of many wildlife species that rely on these habitats (dominated by shrubs, young trees, grasses, and forbs) have declined.

• Group selection timber harvest can be used to create small forest openings (typically <1 hectare) and has the potential to provide needed shrub land habitats within the parceled forests.       

• Use of small forest openings by shrub land bird and bee communities was assessed across a range of forest opening sizes and configurations to develop guidelines for optimizing the value of small forest openings to these high-priority wildlife resources.

• Minimum-area requirements for black-and-white warbler, common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided warbler, eastern towhee, and gray catbird were at most 0.23 ha, while indigo buntings and prairie warblers required larger openings (minimum-area requirements of 0.56 and 1.11 hectare, respectively). Prairie warblers were more likely to be found in openings closer to large patches of habitat, such as power line corridors (>50 m wide) even if those openings were relatively small in size.

• Despite their inability to support all shrub land bird species in the region, small forest openings can
provide habitat for several species of conservation concern if proper attention is given to promoting suitable microhabitat, patch, and landscape characteristics.

• Bee abundance and diversity were significantly higher in forest openings than in mature forest. Individual opening size did not affect bee abundance or diversity; however, bees were more abundant and diverse in openings and adjacent mature forest when there was more early successional habitat in the surrounding landscape. Bee abundance and diversity in forest openings tended to decrease with vegetation height and increase with a metric representing floral richness and abundance. In adjacent mature forests, eusocial, soft-wood-nesting, and small bees exhibited the opposite pattern, increasing with the succession of openings and decreasing with greater floral richness abundance within openings.

• Results suggest that the creation of small forest openings may help to promote bees both in openings and adjacent mature forest, with certain guilds benefitting more than others.

One study on wildlife, specifically Bobwhite Quail and grassland birds, would be of specific interest to field trailers. The study considered states in the south and mid-south and found that in “over 14 states, breeding Bobwhite densities were 70-75% greater around CP33 buffered fields than around unbuffered crop fields. Fall Bobwhite covey densities were 50-110% greater around CP33 fields than around unbuffered crop fields. Several upland songbirds (e.g., dickcissel, field sparrow) responded strongly to CP33 in the landscape. Findings illustrate the wildlife value of field borders and other buffer practices implemented through EQIP, WHIP, and other conservation programs.”

“Buffers can be established around field edges on any cropland. Buffers can be planted along one or more sides of a field, however establishing a buffer around the entire field should be considered and is highly encouraged. CP33 is considered year-round habitat, and as such, should be considered ‘hands off’ from any farming operations.”

Read general information about Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds at:
For further information on CRP buffers, especially for Bobwhite Quail habitat establishment, read “Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds Program Sheet” at:
Read more of the studies conducted by CEAP on topics related to Wildlife, Cropland, Wetlands, Grazing Lands, and Watershed Assessments at: and at

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