Implications of Climate Change for Avian Conservation in Great Plains Landscapes

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Sandhill Crane in flight. Credit: Dan Wundrock
Sandhill Crane in flight. Credit: Dan Wundrock

Playas in the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) are at risk for both increased sedimentation and reduced inundation due to predicted increased summer temperatures, decreased annual precipitation, and agricultural intensification. Among other benefits, playas provide essential habitat for many wetland-dependent species and are especially important as critical refueling stops during spring and fall waterfowl and shorebird migrations. Increasing occurrence of summer drought also potentially threatens the persistence of breeding short grass prairie birds within the GPLCC boundaries. Independent components of this study include (1) modeling the relative influence of rainfall events and surrounding land use on playa wetness and quantifying the potential for increased sedimentation across the GPLCC with projected precipitation changes; (2) developing a landscape metric to quantify shorebird distribution and abundance at multiple scales relative to climatological and environmental data; and (3) modeling the influence of climate variables on nest survival of a suite of grassland birds species, including Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, Lark Bunting, and McCown's Longspur.