The ability to effectively manage wildlife in North America is founded in an understanding of how human actions and the environment influence wildlife populations. Current management practices are informed by population monitoring data from the past to determine key ecological relationships and make predictions about future population status. In most cases, including the regulation of waterfowl hunting in North America, these forecasts assume that the relationships we observed in the past will remain the same in the future. However, climate change is influencing wildlife populations in many dynamic and uncertain ways, leading to a situation in which our observations of the past are poor predictors of the future. If managers continue to use the existing frameworks to set waterfowl hunting regulations without accounting for climate change, there is the potential for under- or over-harvesting which would negatively affect waterfowl populations and hunters across North America.
This project will lay the theoretical groundwork for incorporating climate change projections into the current adaptive harvest management frameworks used to set U.S. hunting regulations for North American waterfowl. The project team will develop an optimization tool that will allow resource managers to evaluate the potential costs of continuing to use existing models to inform hunting regulations despite evidence of climate change effects on populations. The final product of this work will be a guidance document that summarizes current knowledge about the effects of climate change on waterfowl populations, the properties of resource management policies that account for climate change, and the steps needed to implement such policies. This work will directly support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their role of setting hunting regulations and will help to ensure sustainable harvest opportunities of these public trust species.