Shifting Avian Spatial Regimes in a Changing Climate

Rapid environmental change may alter the ability of the Department of Defense to maintain readiness, and require costly remediation and mitigation when formerly abundant species become rare.

Goals

The uncertainties associated with global change support the need for a framework that allows the explicit incorporation of non-linear responses of complex systems.

Current Status

Our project addressed this uncertainty by identifying ecosystems with potential current high vulnerability to global change (risk of an impending regime shift). We identified spatial regimes in avian community data and tracked their movements over 46 years (1970 – 2015) in the North American Great Plains biome. In 46 years, we found the northernmost spatial regime boundaries moved >590 km northward, the southernmost boundary moved >260 km northward. Additionally, we demonstrate that, at the scale of a military installation, avian spatial regimes moved in tandem with vegetation regime spatial boundaries, and in fact, avian spatial regimes provided a spatial early warning of regime shift by responding to vegetation regime shifts > 1 km from vegetation regime boundaries. We demonstrate an eminent biome-level regime shift in the Great Plains and how tracking spatial regimes provides spatially and temporally explicit estimates of vulnerability to ecological change. Spatial regimes provided early warnings of regime shifts >10 years prior to the regime shift, suggesting that spatial regimes can provide decades worth of ecological planning horizons.

Black polygons represent the historic Great Plains biome extent. Coloured bars represent the predicted extents of spatial regimes in the study area over five decades.
Black polygons represent the historic Great Plains biome extent. Coloured bars represent the predicted extents of spatial regimes in the study area over five decades.
Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen
-Dirac Twidwell
-David G. Angeler

Graduate Student(s)
-Caleb Roberts, Ph.D. (2019)


Project Duration
August 2015 - September 2019

Funding
-U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP)

Project Location
Statewide Nebraska, Continental USA
Cooperators