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Assessing the Vulnerability of Grassland Bird Populations to Climate Change

Fitting the Climate Lens to Grassland Bird Conservation: Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability using Demographically-Informed Species Distribution Models
Principal Investigator
Benjamin Zuckerberg


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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 was to develop a framework to identify demographic sensitivities and assess the vulnerability of grassland bird species to future climate change. To do so, the researchers developed [...]

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“Horned Lark - Credit: Tom Koerner, USFWS”
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“Grassland, Missiquoi National Wildlife Refuge, Vermont - Credit: FWS”
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Prairie ecosystems and many grassland birds are particularly vulnerable to rapid shifts in climate variability and associated changes in drought and extreme weather events. For grassland birds, climate change is likely to exacerbate environmental threats such as habitat loss due to shifting agricultural practices and housing sprawl. The project goal is to develop a decision support framework for identifying which demographic characteristics make certain grassland bird species particularly sensitive to climate variability and which regions have the highest level of exposure to future climate change. Project objectives are to 1) convene a core group of scientists and managers involved in grassland bird conservation to build a demographic database for a select group of grassland birds, 2) use downscaled climate projections and land-use change models to develop demographically informed species distribution models in order to estimate species-specific sensitivities and exposures to future climate change, and 3) build management scenarios directly into the modeling approach to assist managers in evaluating the efficacy of current grassland bird management and conservation planning in the future. Using this approach, project researchers will produce spatially-explicit projections of population dynamics to identify regions that might become more or less suitable for grassland birds in the future. Ultimately, the researchers will provide a vulnerability assessment framework for evaluating the management of grassland bird populations at multiple spatiotemporal scales.

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RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 8bf3e576-7ab5-42d0-aee4-ca0fd79752c7

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