Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Uden, D. R., C. R. Allen, A. A. Bishop, R. Grosse, C. F. Jorgensen, T. G. LaGrange, R. G. Stutheit, and M. P. Vrtiska. 2015. Predictions of future ephemeral springtime waterbird stopover habitat availability under global change. Ecosphere 6(11):215.


U.S. Government Work


In the present period of rapid, worldwide change in climate and landuse (i.e., global change), successful biodiversity conservation warrants proactive management responses, especially for long-distance migratory species. However, the development and implementation of management strategies can be impeded by high levels of uncertainty and low levels of control over potentially impactful future events and their effects. Scenario planning and modeling are useful tools for expanding perspectives and informing decisions under these conditions. We coupled scenario planning and statistical modeling to explain and predict playa wetland inundation (i.e., presence/absence of water) and ponded area (i.e., extent of water) in the Rainwater Basin, an anthropogenically altered landscape that provides critical stopover habitat for migratory waterbirds. Inundation and ponded area models for total wetlands, those embedded in rowcrop fields, and those not embedded in rowcrop fields were trained and tested with wetland ponding data from 2004 and 2006–2009, and then used to make additional predictions under two alternative climate change scenarios for the year 2050, yielding a total of six predictive models and 18 prediction sets. Model performance ranged from moderate to good, with inundation models outperforming ponded area models, and models for non-rowcrop-embedded wetlands outperforming models for total wetlands and rowcrop-embedded wetlands. Model predictions indicate that if the temperature and precipitation changes assumed under our climate change scenarios occur, wetland stopover habitat availability in the Rainwater Basin could decrease in the future. The results of this and similar studies could be aggregated to increase knowledge about the potential spatial and temporal distributions of future stopover habitat along migration corridors, and to develop and prioritize multi-scale management actions aimed at mitigating the detrimental effects of global change on migratory waterbird populations.