Climate and land change impacts on future managed wetland habitat: A case study from California’s Central Valley

Landscape Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Concept

California’s Central Valley provides critical habitat for migratory waterbirds, yet only 10% of naturally occurring wetlands remain. Competition for limited water supplies and climate change will impact the long-term viability of these intensively managed habitats.

Objectives

Forecast the distribution, abundance, and connectivity of surface water and managed wetland habitats, using 5 spatially explicit (270 m2) climate/land use/water prioritization scenarios. Mapping potential future dynamic flooded habitat used by waterbirds and other wetland-dependent wildlife to inform management decisions.

Methods

We integrated a climate-driven hydrologic water use model with a spatially explicit land change model, to examine stakeholder-driven scenarios of future land change, climate, and water use and their impacts on future habitat availability.

Results

Declining water availability is the dominant driver of habitat loss across scenarios. The hot/dry scenarios showed the greatest declines in January flooded area by 2101—an important month for overwintering waterbirds. In contrast, higher water supplies in wet climates drive perennial cropland conversion and loss of potential habitat. Potential flooded cropland declined (25 and 33%) under warmer/wetter climate conditions due to this conversion to perennial crops, exposing habitat vulnerability.

Conclusion

Climate-driven loss of water availability had a greater impact on flooded habitat availability than land-use change. When combined, climate change and the conversion of potentially flooded cropland to perennial cropland will threaten future waterbird habitat particularly in January, the peak of the migratory bird season, even when habitat restoration goals are met. Stakeholder-informed scenario analysis can identify target areas for potential habitat change, vulnerability, and conservation.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate and land change impacts on future managed wetland habitat: A case study from California’s Central Valley
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-021-01398-1
Edition Online First
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center, Western Geographic Science Center
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Central Valley
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