Effects of Climate Change and Other Environmental Stressors on Water Birds and Their Habitats

Science Center Objects

Predicted climate impacts on arid U.S. Great Basin wetlands will alter their number, distribution, and quality (e.g., salinity). The scarcity and isolation of these wetlands make them essential not only to wildlife but to ranchers, farmers, and urban areas that rely on their ecosystem services. Great Basin wetlands are important habitats for migratory birds at high volumes, but they become concentrated mineral brines at low volumes, narrowing waterbird food resources as salinity rises.

Predicting and Managing Climate Change Impacts on Semi-Arid Land Wetlands, Migratory Birds, and Their Prey: An Integration of Remote Sensing, Molecular Genetics, Hydrology, and Environmental Modeling (2008-2013)

Predicted climate impacts on arid U.S. Great Basin wetlands will alter their number, distribution, and quality (e.g., salinity). The scarcity and isolation of these wetlands make them essential not only to wildlife but to ranchers, farmers, and urban areas that rely on their ecosystem services. Great Basin wetlands are important habitats for migratory birds at high volumes, but they become concentrated mineral brines at low volumes, narrowing waterbird food resources as salinity rises. Thus, many resource managers need to answer two questions: How will climate change affect migratory bird species dependent on climate-sensitive wetlands? How should management strategies balance human-consumer uses of these water resources with the changing requirements of the ecosystems? We are using the following steps to address these issues: (a) determine the spatial extent of the wetland and waterbird network across the Great Basin, (b) determine climate drivers that alter that extent, (c) use DNA markers to measure the level of key aquatic invertebrate species connectivity throughout the network, and (d) estimate how shifting climate drivers will alter the extent and level of connectivity for Great Basin wetland populations and communities.

This work builds on the previous 15 years of research that Susan Haig and collaborators have carried out on wetland quality and the resulting waterbird movement in the Great Basin. The goal of the project is to understand the role that changing water quality (defined as salinity) will have on the distribution of vertebrate and invertebrate food resources for waterbirds as a result of climate change. A multi-species, landscape-genetic approach is taken to further incorporate potential food resources now and in the future with newly-developed climate models, GIS technology, and hydrology.

Collaborators

Susan Haig (USGS-FRESC), Sean Murphy (USGS-FRESC), Mark Miller (USGS-FRESC), John Matthews (Wildlife Conservation International), Travis Schmidt (USGS-Water Resources), Dan Roby (USGS Oregon Coop. Wildlife Res. Unit)

Funding

USGS Climate Change Program

Effects of Climate Change on Pacific Intertidal Ecosystems: Modeling Predicted Sea Level Rise on Rocky Shores to Quantify Habitat Availability in the Intertidal Zone (2010-2013)

Climate change impacts on the Pacific Northwest coast are expected to be substantial. Sea level is expected to rise 1-2m by 2100, nearshore water acidity is expected to rise to detrimental levels, and large wave dynamics are expected to shift dramatically to larger, more frequent and seasonally early events. Understanding the complex and dynamic rocky intertidal ecosystem is facilitated by analysis and monitoring of focal species that are fully dependent on this ecosystem and relatively easy to measure and monitor. Federal, state, and provincial natural resource management agencies in the United States and Canada have identified the Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) as an ideal focal species for monitoring and understanding climate change impacts on the Pacific North Coast rocky intertidal ecosystem. Using Black Oystercatchers as a keystone species, this project looks at climate change from a GIS/LIDAR, climate-modeling perspective for intertidal zones ranging from California to Alaska.

Major Partners

Susan Haig (USGS-FRESC), Jeff Hollenbeck (USGS-FRESC), Mike Olsen (OSU), Bruce Menge (OSU), Elise Elliott-Smith (USGS-FRESC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Refuges

Funding

USGS Global Change Science Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service