The Impact of Drought on Waterbirds and Their Wetland Habitats in California’s Central Valley

Science Center Objects

California’s Central Valley is a nexus for water resources in the state, draining the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. Urban centers, agricultural operations, and the environment all compete for limited water, and demand is expected to only increase as the population grows and agriculture intensifies. At the same time, the water supply is projected to decrease as temperatures rise, ...

California’s Central Valley is a nexus for water resources in the state, draining the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. Urban centers, agricultural operations, and the environment all compete for limited water, and demand is expected to only increase as the population grows and agriculture intensifies. At the same time, the water supply is projected to decrease as temperatures rise, precipitation patterns change, and the frequency of extreme droughts increases.

 

The Central Valley also provides critical wetland habitats to migratory waterbirds, and wetland managers require information on how to best use water resources to support wildlife objectives, particularly during drought. This project seeks to evaluate how drought influences the distribution, abundance, and timing of wetland habitat in the Central Valley. This information will then be used to assess the effects of drought on habitat and food availability for waterbirds, and subsequently, waterbird movements.

 

There is currently a lack of available data on wetland habitat in the Central Valley, as well as on how waterbird movements are influenced by habitat availability. Using near real-time tracking of waterbird habitats and movements, this study will address both of these needs and will enable researchers to identify gaps in habitat availability and food resources for waterbirds that occur as a result of drought. The results of this study will provide critical guidance for managers seeking to efficiently allocate limited water resources and provide the best possible habitat for waterbirds in the Central Valley, even during drought.