Landscape composition creates a threshold influencing Lesser Prairie-Chicken population resilience to extreme drought

Global Ecology and Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Habitat loss and degradation compound the effects of climate change on wildlife, yet responses to climate and land cover change are often quantified independently. The interaction between climate and land cover change could be intensified in the Great Plains region where grasslands are being converted to row-crop agriculture concurrent with increased frequency of extreme drought events. We quantified the combined effects of land cover and climate change on a species of conservation concern in the Great Plains, the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus  ). We combined extreme drought events and land cover change with lek count surveys in a Bayesian hierarchical model to quantify changes in abundance of male Lesser Prairie-Chickens from 1978 to 2014 in Kansas, the core of their species range. Our estimates of abundance indicate a gradually decreasing population through 2010 corresponding to drought events and reduced grassland areas. Decreases in Lesser Prairie-Chicken abundance were greatest in areas with increasing row-crop to grassland land cover ratio during extreme drought events, and decreased grassland reduces the resilience of Lesser Prairie-Chicken populations to extreme drought events. A threshold exists for Lesser Prairie-Chickens in response to the gradient of cropland:grassland land cover. When moving across the gradient of grassland to cropland, abundance initially increased in response to more cropland on the landscape, but declined in response to more cropland after the threshold (δ=0.096, or 9.6% cropland). Preservation of intact grasslands and continued implementation of initiatives to revert cropland to grassland should increase Lesser Prairie-Chicken resilience to extreme drought events due to climate change.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Landscape composition creates a threshold influencing Lesser Prairie-Chicken population resilience to extreme drought
Series title Global Ecology and Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2016.03.003
Volume 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 10 p.
First page 179
Last page 188
Country United States
State Kansas