What are the primary purposes of BCRs?

Wilson's Warbler · Photo by: Nick Hajdukovich

Wilson’s Warbler · Photo by: Nick Hajdukovich

Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs) are ecologically distinct regions in North America with similar bird communities, habitats, and resource management issues. BCRs are a single application of the scale-flexible hierarchical framework of nested ecological units delineated by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC framework comprises a hierarchy of 4 levels of ecoregions. At each spatial level, spatial resolution increases and ecoregions encompass areas that are progressively more similar in their biotic (e.g., plant and wildlife) and abiotic (e.g., soils, drainage patterns, temperature, and annual precipitation) characteristics. BCRs may be partitioned into smaller ecological units when finer scale conservation planning, implementation, and evaluation are necessary. Conversely, BCRs may be aggregated to facilitate conservation partnerships throughout the annual range of a group of species, recognizing that migratory species may use multiple BCRs throughout their annual life cycle. BCRs also facilitate domestic and international cooperation in bird conservation because these areas of relatively homogenous habitats and bird communities traverse state, provincial, and national borders.

How were BCRs developed?

A mapping team comprised of members from United States, Mexico, and Canada assembled at the first international NABCI workshop held in Puebla, Mexico, in November 1998, to develop a consistent spatial framework for bird conservation in North America. After agreeing on general principles and considering numerous ecoregion delineations, they adopted CEC’s hierarchical framework of nested ecological units. The team’s US members met in December of that year in Memphis, Tennessee, to apply the framework to the United States and developed a proposed map of BCRs. BCRs were created by aggregating CEC level II, III, and IV ecoregions in combinations that reflect current understanding of bird species distribution and life history requirements. The map was presented to and approved by the US NABCI Committee during its November 1999, meeting.The map is a dynamic tool. Its BCR boundaries will change over time as new scientific information becomes available. It is expected that the map will be updated every three years, with the next update occurring in November 2002.

What are the primary purposes of BCRs? The primary purposes of BCRs, as proposed by the mapping team in 1998 and approved in concept by the US Committee in 1999, are to:

  • facilitate communication among the bird conservation initiatives;
  • systematically and scientifically apportion the US into conservation units;
  • facilitate a regional approach to bird conservation;
  • promote new, expanded, or restructured partnerships; and
    identify overlapping or conflicting conservation priorities.

As integrated bird conservation progresses in North America, Bird Conservation Regions should ultimately function as the primary units within which biological foundation issues are resolved, the landscape configuration of sustainable habitats is designed, and priority projects originate.

Download BCR layers and maps.

For more information on the ecological framework and the philosophy behind the development of BCRs, download the following document:
A Proposed Framework for Delineating Ecologically-based Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation Units for Cooperative Bird Conservation in the US

For more information on BCRs and their relationship to Joint Ventures, download the following document: BCRs and JVs: Evolving Roles for Bird Conservation Delivery