This project focused on anticipated effects of 21st century climate change on winter severity, snowpack, and lake ice across the Great Lakes Basin and the response of wildlife populations, namely white-tailed deer and dabbling ducks. Winter conditions have changed substantially since the mid-20th century, with rising temperatures, declining lake ice cover, and increased lake-effect snowfall. Nonetheless, due coarse resolution, poor lake representation, and insufficient treatment of lake-effect processes in global climate models, basinwide climate change projections remain uncertain. Changing winter conditions may greatly alter wildlife behavior and survival rates. The primary wintertime stressors for deer are air chill and snow depth, with extreme winters triggering population declines. Snow/ice cover limit foraging by waterfowl, thereby regulating the timing/intensity of migration and their distributions during non-breeding season. Changes in wildlife abundance and distribution can incur dramatic ecological, societal, and economic impacts. Warming may support expanded deer populations and overgrazing, while elevating infectious disease threats to deer. Annually in the U.S., 13.4 million people participate in deer and migratory bird hunting, generating $21.5 billion in revenue, with the hunting industry supporting 681,000 jobs. Our projections of climate change impacts on the behavior and distribution of deer and ducks will guide conservation planning.
(Fig. 2 from final report) Projected change in the mean number of
days during autumn-winter (September through
February) with at least 2.54 cm of snow on the
ground by the (a-c) mid-21st and (d-f) late 21st
century, compared to the late 20th century. Results
are shown for the (a,d) six-model mean, (b,e) the
model with the least loss of snowpack, and (c,f)
the model with the greatest loss of snowpack.