Understanding Landscape Change in the Alaskan Arctic Coastal Plain and Yukon Kuskokwim Delta

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Funded Title: 
Arctic LCC and Western Alaska LCC Landscape Change
grassy wetland area

Yukon Delta NWR - Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Location: 
Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD)
Duration: 
Aug 2017 to Jul 2022

Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) provide essential habitat for wildlife of management interest, including diverse communities of shorebirds and waterfowl. The low-lying ACP region is located on the North Slope of Alaska, and is rich with shallow lakes and ponds that form as a result of permafrost freeze-thaw cycles. This region is a primary nesting site for many migratory birds. The YKD, meanwhile, is a vast wetland/tundra landscape on Alaska’s remote western coast. One of the largest deltas in the world, the YKD supports millions of nesting and migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and is the largest goose nesting habitat in North America.
 
As climate conditions change and permafrost decreases in thickness and extent, these important landscapes are at risk of undergoing significant change. To conserve these rich ecosystems, managers require information on both current ecosystem conditions and projected changes in the landscape that might occur as temperatures and precipitation patterns change. This project seeks to meet this need by exploring the vulnerability of the ACP and YKD to changing climate conditions and characterizing the impacts of future landscape changes on shorebird and waterfowl populations. Researchers will develop high-resolution maps of current land cover, as well as maps showing projected change in land cover through 2100. Using this information, they will develop maps of suitable and vulnerable shorebird and waterfowl habitat. The results of this project will help wildlife managers in the ACP and YKD understand and plan for ongoing and projected future changes in these landscapes.