Climate Impacts on Waterfowl

Funded Title: 
Detection of Climate-Linked Distributional Shifts of Breeding Waterbirds Across North America
September 1, 2011 to October 1, 2014

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 US 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.