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Understanding the Links between Climate and Waterbirds Across North America

Detection of Climate-Linked Distributional Shifts of Breeding Waterbirds Across North America


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Ducks and other waterfowl in the U.S. are valued and enjoyed by millions of birdwatchers, artists, photographers and citizens for their beauty and appeal. Waterfowl also provide game for hunters throughout the country and act as an important source of revenue for states and local communities. Loss of habitat and migration corridors due to land use changes and changes in climate threaten these birds, however more scientific information is needed to understand these processes. This project used available annual surveys of duck counts, along with data on the location and availability of ponds and temperature and precipitation patterns, to model where across the continental landscape waterfowl were present and if their presence changed [...]

Child Items (4)


Principal Investigator :
Joel A Schmutz
Cooperator/Partner :
Jim Nichols, Mark Lindberg, Dave Verbyla, Mark Koneff
Funding Agency :
Alaska CSC
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

Attached Files

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“Young swan, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge - Credit: USFWS”
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“Pacific loon - Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS”
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“Sabine's gull nest - Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS”
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“Sandhill crane - Credit: Matt Stevenson, USFWS”
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“Tundra swan, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge - Credit: USFWS”
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“Coastal Tundra Yukon Delta NWR - Credit: Kristine Sowl_FWS”
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Extensive and long-term sampling is necessary to identify demographically important changes in the distribution of wildlife populations that may be linked to climate processes. Few survey data streams exist for such an assessment. The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is one notable exception to this limitation. This survey, conducted annually through the leadership of the Division of Migratory Bird Management of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, samples 5 million square kilometers and covers prairies, parklands, boreal forest, and coastal habitats. Additional surveys similarly cover tundra areas of the U.S. and Canada. Data from these surveys are used annually in an adaptive management and decision framework that provides objective model output for how harvest regulations across the continent should be implemented to maintain existing populations. We propose to estimate rates of species colonization or extinction (i.e., ‘occupancy’) using a spatially and temporally explicit model. We will also model the relationship between occupancy and habitat and climate covariates. These analyses will identify how species distributions of waterbirds for much of the continent are responding to climate processes. We anticipate that our results could affect monitoring design and the adaptive harvest management (AHM) process in several ways. One outcome may be a recommendation to eliminate some survey segments or strata or add in new ones. A second possibility is that the underlying demographic model structures that drive the adaptive management decision models may need to be modified to include progressive environmental change that is ultimately driven by climate. Our results and how they will impact future surveys and AHM will be presented both in publications and in meetings, including presentations at conferences, flyway meetings, and other appropriate venues. We will work closely through all phases of this project with US Fish and Wildlife Service colleagues. Additionally, we will partner with the University of Alaska.

Project Extension


Coastal Tundra Yukon Delta NWR - Credit: Kristine Sowl_FWS
Coastal Tundra Yukon Delta NWR - Credit: Kristine Sowl_FWS


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • Alaska CASC
  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers

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