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Monday, February 6 • 4:40pm - 5:00pm
Technical Session. Fried Chicken: Identifying Areas of Thermal Refugia for Lesser Prairie-chickens in a Changing Climate

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AUTHORS: Jonathan Lautenbach, Kansas State University; David Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Blake Grisham, Department of Natural Resources, Texas Tech University

ABSTRACT: As Earth’s climate continues to change, temperatures are predicted to increase, increasing the number of days that species experience thermal stress. Thermal stress can negatively influences survival and reproduction for many wildlife species, including the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), an imperiled prairie-grouse native to the southwestern Great Plains. The Great Plains is considered a climate change hotspot, and is expected to see an approximate 10° C increase in average temperatures during spring and fall. Understanding how the species copes with intensifying conditions will help inform managers on how to create landscapes that minimize thermal stress. We captured female lesser prairie-chickens during the spring and attached transmitters to track their movements. We sampled vegetation and microclimate conditions using Maxim Integrated Semiconductors at lesser prairie-chicken midday loafing locations and random locations across the landscape to identify what vegetation characteristics and landscape features lesser prairie-chickens use to minimize thermal stress. We found that female lesser prairie-chickens selected cooler microclimates for daytime loafing compared to random points; up to 17° ­C cooler in some instances. Midday loafing locations averaged 2 times the amount of forb cover and nearly 1.5 times greater visual obstruction compared to random locations. Additionally, at the landscape scale we found aspect was an important component to thermal cover, as north aspects had cooler microclimates and lesser prairie-chickens disproportionally used this feature for midday loafing. Currently, lesser prairie-chickens seek thermal refugia during the hottest days (>30° C); with continued warming, the frequency and intensity of these days is predicted to increase, increasing the need for thermal refugia. Identifying a management practice that increases overall vegetation cover (visual obstruction) and spatially heterogeneity with an abundance of forbs will be important to provide important thermal refugia for lesser prairie-chickens.

Monday February 6, 2017 4:40pm - 5:00pm CST
Grand Ballroom B