Contribution of Landscape Characteristics and Vegetation Shifts from Global Climate change to Long-Term Viability of Greater Sage-Grouse

Steven Knick
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 6/19/2023

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Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act because of population and habitat fragmentation coupled with inadequate regulatory mechanisms to control development in critical areas. In addition to the current threats to habitat, each 1 degree celsius increase due to climate change is expected to result in an additional 87,000 km2 of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) that will be converted to unsuitable habitat for sage-grouse. Thus, the future distribution and composition of sagebrush landscapes is likely to differ greatly from today’s configuration. We conducted a large, multi-objective project to identify:

  1. Characteristics of habitats required by sage-grouse
  2. Spatial organization of breeding populations of sage-grouse across their entire range
  3. Current and future distribution of sagebrush landscapes
  4. Connectivity of habitat and sage-grouse populations

Ultimately, the project will provide an understanding of sage-grouse response to spatial and temporal changes in their environment. This information will permit managers to estimate population vulnerability to stochastic or environmental risks and will aid decisions about allocating limited resources for conservation.

Spatial organization of breeding populations can best be delineated from genetic data. Funding from the NW Climate Science Center (NW CSC) was used to develop a peer-reviewed study plan that develops the scientific foundation for the range-wide genetic connectivity study. Funding from the NW CSC was also used to process genetic data in a preliminary sample of sage-grouse feathers collected in the northwest portion of the sage-grouse range. Funding from other federal and state agencies supported additional genetic analyses, development of landscape models delineating cost-surfaces, and assessment of features that influence genetic relatedness among sage-grouse populations. 

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The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

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