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Wednesday, April 11 • 3:45pm - 4:00pm
PROCESSES IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES: Assessing the Population Response of Grassland Birds to Mid and End of 21st Century Landscape Change Predictions in the Great Plains (USA)

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AUTHORS: Kyle Taylor, Anne Bartuszevige, Meghan Bogearts, Mike Carter, Alex Daniels – Playa Lakes Joint Venture, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

ABSTRACT: Over the course of the 20th century, the North American Great Plains experienced large-scale conversion of many native grassland ecosystems into commodity crop production. Conversion has had a negative effect on regional biodiversity, particularly for populations of grassland birds, which experienced large population declines over this same period. A number of authors anticipate shifts in commodity crop production in the Great Plains over the course of the next century in response to climate and economic change. We hypothesize that any large changes in landscape configuration will negatively influence populations of grassland birds. To assess the potential influence of shifting agricultural production, we used distance sampling to calculate bird densities for twenty birds with declining or unknown population trends at 300 transects allocated within shortgrass, mixed-grass, and agricultural lands throughout the Great Plains. We relate density estimates for birds to fragmentation metrics derived from remotely-sensed vegetation data using a likelihood-based, hierarchical distance model. We use model-based inference of bird densities across an ensemble of landscape change predictions for different commodity crop price and human demographic scenarios for the Great Plains for 2050 and 2100 (for SRES-AR4, GCAM-RCP, BAU, BTU; taken from Sohl et al., 2017) in order to determine potential shifts in population size and breeding-season range for birds. We found that an increase in ‘fallow’ lands may contribute to population-stability or increases for common species, while populations of less-common species may decrease by as much as 20% . We observe divergent patterns in habitat selection, with some species selecting for/against “patchy” landscapes with a mixed grassland-agriculture component. Others selected for total area of grassland habitat available. We found a high degree of variation in landscape change predictions due to uncertainties about future crop prices and yields and explore the implications of uncertainty in land cover predictions for bird population modeling.

Wednesday April 11, 2018 3:45pm - 4:00pm CDT
Adams Room

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