Understanding the Links Between Climate, Ecosystem Processes, Wetland Management, and Bird Communities in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Great Plains

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In semi-arid regions, riparian and wetland ecosystems function as important migratory and breeding habitats and add significantly to local and regional biodiversity; however, these ecosystems are increasingly threatened by climate change and the potential synergistic effects of increasing demand for water and invasion by exotic species. As a continuation of our inaugural USGS National Climate C...

In semi-arid regions, riparian and wetland ecosystems function as important migratory and breeding habitats and add significantly to local and regional biodiversity; however, these ecosystems are increasingly threatened by climate change and the potential synergistic effects of increasing demand for water and invasion by exotic species. As a continuation of our inaugural USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) project, this study examined the effects of climate and land use change on bird populations and their riparian and wetland habitats in the western US. Scientists at the USGS, academic institutions, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) examined the linkages between climate, hydrology, and the biological factors that influence riparian and wetland ecosystem resilience and migratory bird communities. To this end, we (1) collectively developed a synthesis document exploring the linkages between the myriad of elements determining climate change effects on bird communities and communicated this state-of-knowledge to wildlife managers; (2) downscaled data using statistical and dynamical approaches that produce ensemble climate models; (3) developed models to forecast climate effects on water and biological outcomes on wetlands in the northern Great Plains; (4) developed models that relate climate predictions to snowmelt timing, stream flow, water management, and the phenology and growth of native and invasive riparian plants, (5) predicted migrant bird responses to changes in phenology and habitats; and (6) examine the role of phenotypic plasticity in avian responses to climate change. By exploring the effects of altered climate and habitat conditions on riparian-dependent birds using a holistic approach that incorporates both top-down and bottom-up constraints, we can better predict changes in riparian ecosystems and responses of migratory birds to those changes. The results can assist managers and conservation professionals within federal, state, and NGOs who are concerned with protecting migratory bird species and managing riparian invasive species, by addressing all four science goals of the NCCWSC. The project falls under the purview of three USGS Science Strategy strategic directions and three US Climate Change Science Program goals.