Spatial and temporal predictions of whooping crane (Grus americana) habitat along the US Gulf Coast

Katherine E. Golden, Benjamin L. Hemingway, Amy E. Frazier, Rheinhardt Scholtz, Wade Harrell, Craig A. Davis, Samuel D. Fuhlendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The challenge of conserving viable habitat while simultaneously predicting how land cover may geographically shift with future climate change has put pressure on ecologists and policy-makers to develop near-term (several years to a decade) ecological and geospatial predictions. This is particularly relevant for endangered species as ranges adjust to track a changing climate. The whooping crane is vulnerable to these changes, as the overwintering habitat of a small population is susceptible to climate impacts. This study mapped the historical spatial transformation of crane habitat in and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. A time series of ecological niche models was developed to determine the biotic and abiotic factors correlated with crane presence and track how importance has changed over time. The results from the multitemporal models were used to predict areas along the US Gulf Coast where additional unoccupied habitat may be located for crane population expansion and model how the areas may degrade or change as sea levels rise through future climate change scenarios. Findings indicate that the percentage of emergent herbaceous wetland and water are the most important variables influencing crane presence. Sea level rise analysis indicates that potential habitat throughout the Texas–Louisiana Gulf Coast will be impacted considerably by climate change. The lack of large, continuous blocks of usable land cover could limit population expansion and future recovery efforts. However, the findings can help facilitate winter range expansion to accommodate the growing population by identifying additional areas to protect that could be used by the current wild population or experimental populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalConservation Science and Practice
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • ecological modeling
  • endangered species
  • estuarine emergent wetland
  • overwintering habitat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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