Jim Robbins in The New York Times: “The Central Valley was once one of North America’s most productive wildlife habitats, a 450-mile-long expanse marbled with meandering streams and lush wetlands that provided an ideal stop for migratory shorebirds on their annual journeys from South America and Mexico to the Arctic and back.
Farmers and engineers have long since tamed the valley. Of the wetlands that existed before the valley was settled, about 95 percent are gone, and the number of migratory birds has declined drastically. But now an unusual alliance of conservationists, bird watchers and farmers have joined in an innovative plan to restore essential habitat for the migrating birds.
The program, called BirdReturns, starts with data from eBird, the pioneering citizen science project that asks birders to record sightings on a smartphone app and send the information to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in upstate New York.
By crunching data from the Central Valley, eBird can generate maps showing where virtually every species congregates in the remaining wetlands. Then, by overlaying those maps on aerial views of existing surface water, it can determine where the birds’ need for habitat is greatest….
BirdReturns is an example of the growing movement called reconciliation ecology, in which ecosystems dominated by humans are managed to increase biodiversity.
“It’s a new ‘Moneyball,’ ” said Eric Hallstein, an economist with the Nature Conservancy and a designer of the auctions, referring to the book and movie about the Oakland Athletics’ data-driven approach to baseball. “We’re disrupting the conservation industry by taking a new kind of data, crunching it differently and contracting differently.”