Projected Responses of Alberta Grassland Songbirds to Climate Change

Amy Nixon
Ryan Fisher
Diana Stralberg
Erin Bayne
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Across North America, grassland songbirds have undergone steep population declines over recent decades, commonly attributed to agricultural intensification. Understanding the potential impacts of climate change on the future distributions of these species can support improved risk assessments and conservation planning for this otherwise vulnerable group. We used North American bioclimatic niche models to project future changes in suitable climate space for 15 Alberta grassland songbirds. Our climate suitability projections, combined with the current distribution of native and tame grassland and cropland habitats in Alberta suggest that some climate-mediated range expansion of many grassland songbirds in Alberta is possible. These projected expansions may hinge, however, on the stability of grassland songbird populations across North America. For more than half of the grassland songbird species in Alberta, a large proportion (more than 50%) of their historical climate niche was projected to
remain suitable to the end of the century. However, some endemic grassland species with dramatic projected changes in suitable climate distribution, including Baird’s Sparrow and Sprague’s Pipit, have limited areas of climate stability in their historical niche and their expansion into new areas of suitable climate may be limited by the availability of suitable landcover.