The future demographic niche of a declining grassland bird fails to shift poleward in response to climate change

Landscape Ecology
By: , and 




Temperate grasslands and their dependent species are exposed to high variability in weather and climate due to the lack of natural buffers such as forests. Grassland birds are particularly vulnerable to this variability, yet have failed to shift poleward in response to recent climate change like other bird species in North America. However, there have been few studies examining the effect of weather on grassland bird demography and consequent influence of climate change on population persistence and distributional shifts.


The goal of this study was to estimate the vulnerability of Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), an obligate grassland bird that has been declining throughout much of its range, to past and future climatic variability.


We conducted a demographic meta-analysis from published studies and quantified the relationship between nest success rates and variability in breeding season climate. We projected the climate-demography relationships spatially, throughout the breeding range, and temporally, from 1981 to 2050. These projections were used to evaluate population dynamics by implementing a spatially explicit population model.


We uncovered a climate-demography linkage for Henslow’s Sparrow with summer precipitation, and to a lesser degree, temperature positively affecting nest success. We found that future climatic conditions—primarily changes in precipitation—will likely contribute to reduced population persistence and a southwestward range contraction.


Future distributional shifts in response to climate change may not always be poleward and assessing projected changes in precipitation is critical for grassland bird conservation and climate change adaptation.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The future demographic niche of a declining grassland bird fails to shift poleward in response to climate change
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-017-0487-x
Volume 32
Issue 4
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 15 p.
First page 807
Last page 821
Country United States