Marginal value analysis reveals shifting importance of migration habitat for waterfowl under a changing climate

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Abstract

Migratory waterfowl are an important resource for consumptive and non-consumptive users alike and provide tremendous economic value in North America. These birds rely on a complex matrix of public and private land for forage and roosting during migration and wintering periods, and substantial conservation effort focuses on increasing the amount and quality of target habitat. Yet, the value of habitat is a function not only of a site's resources but also of its geographic position and weather. To quantify this value, we used a continental-scale energetics-based model of daily dabbling duck movement to assess the marginal value of lands across the contiguous United States during the non-breeding period (September to May). We examined effects of eliminating each habitat node (32 × 32 km) in both a particularly cold and a particularly warm winter, asking which nodes had the largest effect on survival. The marginal value of habitat nodes for migrating dabbling ducks was a function of forage and roosting habitat but, more importantly, of geography (especially latitude and region). Irrespective of weather, nodes in the Southeast, central East Coast, and California made the largest positive contributions to survival. Conversely, nodes in the Midwest, Northeast, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest had consistent negative effects. Effects (positive and negative) of more northerly nodes occurred in late fall or early spring when climate was often severe and was most variable. Importance and effects of many nodes varied considerably between a cold and a warm winter. Much of the Midwest and central Great Plains benefited duck survival in a warm winter, and projected future warming may improve the value of lands in these regions, including many National Wildlife Refuges, for migrating dabbling ducks. Our results highlight the geographic variability in habitat value, as well as shifts that may occur in these values due to climate change.

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Burner, R. C., Golas, B. D., Aagaard, K. J., Lonsdorf, E. V., & Thogmartin, W. E. (2023). Marginal value analysis reveals shifting importance of migration habitat for waterfowl under a changing climate. Ecology and Evolution, 13(11). https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10632

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