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Climate-induced shifts in grassland bird nesting phenology have implications for grassland management

October 21, 2023

Grasslands are among the most impacted ecosystems globally. In the midcontinent of North America, a > 80% loss of grasslands has made their conservation a major priority for resource managers. Grassland ecosystems evolved under periodic disturbances; consequently, grassland management often involves regular actions such as grazing, haying, or burning to maintain ecosystem integrity. The timing of such practices has direct implications on grassland ecology, agricultural economics, and survival and fecundity of grassland nesting birds (hereafter grassland birds). We conducted a meta-analysis on the nesting phenology of grassland birds throughout North America, focusing on nest-survival literature. We constructed a well-fitting model to predict median date of expected nest departure (hereafter fledge date) for grassland birds across the midcontinent. Predictions from our model demonstrate considerable spatial variation in median nesting phenology that is predictable using a spatially explicit spring phenology index. Median fledge dates were 8 or 13 days earlier in years of extreme weather conditions (dry or wet, respectively) than in years of average conditions. Species that generally nest in taller vegetation tended to have later median nest phenologies than those using shorter vegetation. Our results incorporate the most rigorous information available in the literature on nesting phenology of 36 grassland bird species and improve information available to managers about nesting phenology of grassland birds in the midcontinent of North America. Our predictions approximate the day when one-half of the nesting efforts would be complete for a given area within the midcontinent grasslands and can inform management and conservation decisions about the timing of management actions in grassland ecosystems.

Publication Year 2023
Title Climate-induced shifts in grassland bird nesting phenology have implications for grassland management
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2023.e02700
Authors Michael J. Anteau, Kristen S. Ellis, Garrett J. MacDonald, Lawrence Igl, Neal D. Niemuth, Josh Vest
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Ecology and Conservation
Index ID 70249725
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center