Prairie ecosystems and the grassland birds that rely on them for habitat may be particularly vulnerable to rapid changes in climate. Extensive portions of prairie have already been lost due to agriculture and urbanization, and as a result grassland birds have declined more than any other bird group in the last four decades. Now, climate change could exacerbate existing threats to these birds as temperatures in certain prairie ecosystems are expected to rise and extreme weather events, such as drought, could become more common.
The goal of this project is to better understand the current and future impacts of climate change on grassland bird species, such as the Henslow’s Sparrow and the Bobolink. To do this, researchers will examine how different bird populations respond to climate change –through changes in survival and reproduction – as well as identify the degree to which populations will be exposed to future changes in climate, based on climate model predictions. This information will then be used to forecast how bird populations might change demographically and how their distributions might shift as a result. Finally, researchers will help managers evaluate the efficacy of current grassland bird management practices and determine whether these strategies need to be altered to successfully conserve grassland bird species, given the projected population responses to unprecedented changes in climate.