Date: April 18, 2018
Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office
Every year, endangered whooping cranes travel along a 4,000-kilometer corridor linking their Canadian nesting grounds and their winter home in Texas. Habitat in their path through the northern Great Plains is being lost at an alarming rate, but identifying key spots for protection is a challenge. Now, researchers behind a new study have created a model of whooping crane habitat use with the potential to greatly improve the targeting of conservation efforts during their migration.
Researcher Neal Niemuth and his colleagues used a database of Whooping Crane sightings in the region since 1990 to examine cranes' habitat use in North and South Dakota. Analyzing the spatial patterns of the sightings, they found that Whooping Cranes prefer habitat that includes a mix of croplands and wetlands and are more attracted by a single large wetland basin than multiple smaller basins. Their results also show the effects of different conservation strategies across the region. East of the Missouri River, where efforts have been specifically targeted toward waterfowl conservation, lands under conservation management were more likely than other locations to be used by Whooping Cranes. West of the river, however, this was not the case.