Projected Effects of Climate Change on Birds in U.S. National Parks

Conceptual diagram illustrating climate suitability trends and resulting changes in the bird community at Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Figure 1. Example of potential changes in the bird assemblage at Golden Gate National Recreation Area by mid-century under the high-emissions trajectory. Bird illustrations by Kenn Kaufman.
Birds in U.S. national parks find strong protection from many longstanding and pervasive threats, but remain highly exposed to effects of ongoing climate change. As climate in a particular place changes, suitability may worsen for some species and improve for others. These changes in climate may alter distributions of historically occurring species, creating the potential for local extirpation or new colonization (Figure 1).

This page summarizes model-based projections of changes in climate suitability by mid-century for birds across 274 natural resource national parks under two climate change scenarios (for more information regarding how climate suitability is characterized, see Langham et al. 2015). Results throughout this page focus primarily on the high-emissions pathway (RCP8.5) because it is the scenario most consistent with current greenhouse gas emissions rates; however, comparisons are made to results for the low-emissions pathway (RCP2.6) as a contrasting, best-case scenario for emissions reductions (see Methods).

This study focuses exclusively on changing climatic conditions for birds over time. But projected changes in climate suitability are not definitive predictions of future species ranges or abundances. Numerous other factors affect where species occur, including habitat quality, food abundance, species adaptability, and the availability of microclimates (see Caveats). Therefore, managers should consider changes in climate suitability alongside these other important influences.

Use the panels below to download project briefs for each park and learn more about this study.

Here you can download individual PDF briefs for each national park unit covered by this study.

Source: Data Store Collection 8066. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

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    Last updated: February 5, 2024


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