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Assessing the Vulnerability of Grassland Bird Populations to Climate Change

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Christine Ribic, USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
West Virginia
North Dakota
South Dakota
North Carolina
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Our goal was to develop a framework to identify demographic sensitivities and assess the vulnerability of grassland bird species to future climate change. To do so, we developed a strong partnership among managers and researchers to understand how climate change might impact the conservation and management planning of grassland birds throughout the NE CASC region and identify potentially vulnerable species. Using input from managers, we focused our efforts on two grassland indicator species of high conservation interest: Henslow’s Sparrows and Bobolinks. We developed spatially-explicit and temporally dynamic species distribution models for these indicator species and evaluated the effects of past and future climate on their populations. Finally, we studied how weather and extreme events (e.g., drought and flooding) effects the breeding success of grassland birds across North America.

--> View meeting summary for "Grassland Bird Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Collaborator Meeting"

By incorporating information on future climate change, we have identified regions where Henslow's Sparrows, a species of increasing conservation concern, are likely to face unsuitable conditions for reproduction. In addition, we have identified areas that will serve as likely refugia for this species in the future. We have performed the first-ever exploration of the synergistic effects of weather and grassland patch size, the most common currency of grassland bird conservation and management. We have found that large grasslands serve as an important buffer of extreme temperature and precipitation on grassland bird nesting success, which provided an additional rationale for focusing effort on increasing grassland patch size for grassland bird conservation.


Zuckerberg, B. Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments. USFWS NCTC Climate Academy. 1 January 2017.
Ribic, C.A., L.A. McCauley, and B. Zuckerberg. Climate impacts on grassland bird demography are mediated by patch size. North American Ornithological Congress, Washington DC. 16-20 August 2016.
McCauley, L.A., B. Zuckerberg, and C.A. Ribic. Assessing climate change vulnerability of grassland birds using demographically informed species distribution models. Tyson Research Center, Washington University, St. Louis, MO. 21 July 2016.
Zuckerberg, B., C. Ribic, and L. McCauley. Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Grassland Birds Using Demographically Informed Species Distribution Models. Central Hardwoods Joint Venture technical committee. March 2016.
McCauley, L.A., Zuckerberg, B., Ribic, C.A.. "Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability for Grassland Birds using Demographically Informed Species Distribution Models". American Grassland Conference, Ft Collins, Colorado. September 29 - October 1, 2015.
Zuckerberg, B. Sentinels of climate change. Earth Day Conference, Madison, WI, 22 April, 2014. [Invited]
Zuckerberg, B. Wildlife ecology in a changing climate. Joint Meeting Minnesota and Wisconsin State Chapters of The Wildlife Society, Duluth, Minnesota, 17-19 February, 2015. [Invited]
McCauley, L.A., B. Zuckerberg, C.A. Ribic. Assessing climate change vulnerability of grassland species using demographically informed species distribution models. Midwest Bird Conservation and Monitoring Workshop, Port Washington, WI. 4-8 August 2014. [Invited Plenary]
McCauley, L.A., B Zuckerberg, CA Ribic. Assessing climate change vulnerability of grassland species using demographically informed species distribution models. National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation. Washington, D.C., 23-24 October, 2014. [Invited]
Zuckerberg, B. Climate change and wildlife. Forum on Climate Change and Wisconsin Hunting and Fishing, Baraboo, WI, 1 April, 2014. [Invited]
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