, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 11–20 | Cite as

Potential Impact of Climate Change Scenarios on Whooping Crane Life History

  • Felipe Chavez-RamirezEmail author
  • Walter Wehtje
SWS Wildlife


Whooping crane (Grus americana), a rare and critically endangered species, are wetland dependent throughout their life cycle. The whooping crane’s small population size, limited distribution, and wetland habitat requirements make them vulnerable to potential climate changes. Climate change predictions suggest overall temperature increases and significant changes in precipitation regimes throughout North America. At the individual level, temperature changes should have neutral to positive effects on thermoregulation and overall energy expenditure throughout the whooping crane’s range. In the breeding grounds, earlier snow melt and increasing temperatures should improve food resources. However, increased precipitation and more extreme rainfall events could impact chick survival if rainfall occurs during hatching. Increased precipitation may also alter fire regimes leading to increased woody plant abundance thus reducing nesting habitat quality. During winter, higher temperatures will lead to a northward shifting of the freeze line, which will decrease habitat quality via invasion of black mangrove. Large portions of current winter habitat may be lost if predicted sea level changes occur. Stopover wetland availability during migration may decrease due to drier conditions in the Great Plains. Current and future conservation actions should be planned in light of not only current needs but also considering future expectations.


Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Grus americana Wood Buffalo National Park 



We thank Tom Stehn, and anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gulf Coast Bird ObservatoryLake JacksonUSA
  2. 2.The Crane TrustWood RiverUSA

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