Implications of climate change for wetland-dependent birds in the Prairie Pothole Region

Product Type: 

Journal Article




Steen, V.A., S.K. Skagen, and C.P. Melcher

Suggested Citation: 

Steen, V.A., S.K. Skagen, and C.P. Melcher. 2016. Implications of climate change for wetland-dependent birds in the Prairie Pothole Region. Wetlands. DOI:10.1007/s13157-016-0791-2

The habitats and food resources required to support breeding and migrant birds dependent on North American prairie wetlands are threatened by impending climate change. The North American Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) hosts nearly 120 species of wetland-dependent birds representing 21 families. Strategic management requires knowledge of avian habitat requirements and assessment of species most vulnerable to future threats. We applied bioclimatic species distribution models (SDMs) to project range changes of 29 wetland-dependent bird species using ensemble modeling techniques, a large number of General Circulation Models (GCMs), and hydrological climate covariates. For the U.S. PPR, mean projected range change, expressed as a proportion of currently occupied range, was −0.31 (± 0.22 SD; range − 0.75 to 0.16), and all but two species were projected to lose habitat. Species associated with deeper water were expected to experience smaller negative impacts of climate change. The magnitude of climate change impacts was somewhat lower in this study than earlier efforts most likely due to use of different focal species, varying methodologies, different modeling decisions, or alternative GCMs. Quantification of the projected species-specific impacts of climate change using species distribution modeling offers valuable information for vulnerability assessments within the conservation planning process.

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