State Wildlife Grant - T2-2-R

Project Title

Wetland Occupancy by Shorebirds in Wind Energy Developments in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota

Target Species

Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope, Willet

Timeline

March 2009 – Feb. 2011

Investigators

Scott Stephens and Johann Walker, Ducks Unlimited

Description

Increasing concern about dependence on foreign energy and the impacts of global climate change has resulted in increased interest in development of domestic, renewable, lower-emission energy sources. Wind energy has many desirable characteristics, but wind energy development can adversely affect wildlife populations and was identified as potential conservation problem for mixed grass prairie in North Dakota’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the north-central United States is an area with high wind energy potential where wind energy development has recently increased. Because of its abundant glaciated wetlands and expansive native grasslands, the PPR is also an important breeding and migration area for many of the continent’s shorebirds. Understanding potential effects of wind energy development on shorebird populations begins with understanding potential changes in distribution. If these species are avoiding wind project areas then occupancy rates will be lower: effectively reducing the amount of available habitat for breeding shorebirds and ultimately reducing the carrying-capacity of the landscape for these species. A first step in the process of discovering relationships between shorebirds and wind energy is to investigate patterns of occupancy and use of the landscape by these species. Then, other parameters can be studied in the context of how shorebirds are dispersed across the landscape in areas with and without wind energy development.