Climate-change impacts on sagebrush habitat and West Nile virus transmission risk and conservation implications for greater sage-grouse
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Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are threatened by loss of sagebrush habitat and the spread of West Nile virus throughout much of their range in North America; yet, future impacts of climate change on these potential stressors have not been addressed. Here, we aim to quantify the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of climatically suitable habitat for sagebrush and on transmission risk for West Nile virus in the eastern portion of the species’ range. We used Maxent to model the current and future climatically suitable habitat for two dominant sagebrush species in the study area, and we used a degree-day model to predict future West Nile virus transmission risk under likely climate-change scenarios. Our models suggest that areas with the highest future suitability for sagebrush habitat will be found in southwestern Wyoming and north-central Montana. The degree-day model suggests that greater sage-grouse in western portions of the study area, which are generally higher in elevation than where West Nile virus currently occurs, will see increasing risk of transmission in the future. We developed a spatially explicit map of suggested management actions based on our predictions that will aid in conservation of the species into the coming decades.
KeywordsClimate Greater sage-grouse Northern Great Plains Northern Rockies Species distribution modeling West Nile virus
Funding for the sagebrush distribution modeling was provided through a grant from Hewlett Packard to the World Wildlife Fund. Funding for the West Nile virus transmission risk modeling was provided by USDA specific cooperative agreement #5410-32000-014-15. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Karen Short, who provided LANDFIRE sagebrush data points. We thank the climate modeling groups that developed the GCMs for contributing their work through the WCRP CMIP3 for public use in ecosystem impacts research.
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