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Assessing the Impacts of Drought on Migratory Waterbirds in Key Conservation Regions of the Western U.S.

An Integrated Assessment of Drought Impacts on Migratory Waterbirds in Key Conservation Regions of the Western U.S.
Principal Investigator
Bruce Dugger


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Migratory birds may be hit especially hard by climate change – particularly waterbirds that depend on wetlands as resting and feeding sites during their journey between breeding and non-breeding grounds. California’s Central Valley and the interior basins of southeastern Oregon and northeastern California provide some of the most critical wetlands resources to migratory waterbirds in the western U.S. However, these wetlands rely heavily on snow pack and precipitation for water supply, both of which have already decreased due to climate change. Of further concern is the fact that drought conditions resulting from climate change could exacerbate existing water allocation issues in the region. Researchers are examining the potential [...]

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“Canadian geese near Lakeview, OR - Credit: BLM”
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Climate change may a have disproportionate impact on migratory birds, particular those species that rely on wetlands. California’s Central Valley (CV) and the interior basins of southeastern Oregon in northeast California (SONEC) provide the most significant freshwater wetland resources to migratory waterbirds in the western United States. While all wetland-dependent wildlife may be impacted by climate change, the CV and SONEC regions are particularly important to waterfowl during migration and winter; consequently, waterfowl are an ideal species group to rigorously assess the potential impact of climate change in both regions. We will use bioenergetic models to link climate change, habitat wetland availability (in fall winter, and spring), waterfowl foraging conditions, and waterfowl population performance. We will consider a range of possible scenarios that combine how climate change will influence total water resources and how policy makers might allocate water to create an integrated assessment tool to explore the possible impacts to migratory waterfowl that rely on the CV and SONEC wetlands. Results will provide an assessment of possible climate change scenarios on waterfowl, but also create a decision-support tool that can then be applied to other groups of wetland birds.

Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueWetlands in California’s Central Valley (CV) and southern Oregon and northeast California (SONEC) are the two most significant regions supporting migratory wetland birds in the western U.S. and both are under threats to long term system persistence and function from climate change and water allocation decisions. We propose to use scenario planning to evaluate the consequences of drought on wetland-dependent birds and integrate planning in the CV and SONEC regions. Our objectives are to: 1) use bioenergetic models to evaluate the impact of alternative plausible habitat scenarios to bird performance; 2) model relationships between bird productivity and winter habitat conditions; and 3) create integrated decision support tools that will help communicate our results to conservation planners. We focus analyses on waterfowl, but the framework we create could be extended to other species. We will use a water evaluation and planning (WEAP) model to link climate and policy scenarios to habitat conditions and use two bioenergetics models (TRUEMET and SWAMP) to link habitat conditions to waterfowl foraging conditions and bird body condition and survival. The bioenergetics models will provide a decision support tool for our intended users, who are primarily the technical and management boards of the CVJV, IWJV, LCCs and their numerous federal, state, and NGO partners. Direct consultation, presentations, and delivery of reports will be used to transfer information. This project is primarily a collaboration between Oregon State University, Ducks Unlimited, UC Davis, USGS, the Central Valley Joint Venture and Intermountain West Habitat Joint Venture. If funded this proposal will provide support for two young scientists, an MS student and post-doctoral scholar.
projectStatusIn Progress

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Canadian geese near Lakeview, OR - Credit: BLM
Canadian geese near Lakeview, OR - Credit: BLM


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National CASC
  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers




Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 21646f1f-db74-4dc3-8f56-e19466491a4c

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