Habitat availability ultimately limits the distribution and abundance of wildlife species. Consequently, it is paramount to identify where wildlife habitat is and understand how it changes over time in order to implement large scale wildlife conservation plans. Yet, no work has quantified the degree of change in range-wide breeding habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia), despite the species being listed as endangered by the U.S. federal government. Thus, using available geographic information system (GIS) data and Landsat satellite imagery we quantified range-wide warbler breeding habitat change from 1999-2001 to 2010-2011. We detected a 29% reduction in total warbler breeding habitat and found that warbler breeding habitat was removed and became more fragmented at uneven rates across the warbler’s breeding range during this time period. This information will assist researchers and managers in prioritizing breeding habitat conservation efforts for the species and provide a foundation for more realistic carrying capacity scenarios when modeling golden-cheeked warbler populations over time. Additionally, this study highlights the need for future work centered on quantifying golden-cheeked warbler movement rates and distances in order to assess the degree of connectivity between increasingly fragmented habitat patches.
Additional publication details
Spatiotemporal variation in range-wide Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat