Drought, birds and nature’s benefits: Making a difference through science!
“Drought drags on; Storms didn’t quench California’s thirst.” – USA Today, March 6, 2014
Ranchers, rice growers, refuge managers and other Point Blue partners do not need to read the headline above to know the severity of the situation. As of early March, nearly 95% of California and much of the West remained in severe drought, despite February’s rains.
Whether California sees more or less rain in the decades to come (projections vary widely), we are likely in the early stages of an extended dry period. Add to this the reduction in nature’s ability to hold water, due to widespread habitat loss and higher average temperatures (especially at night) due to climate change, and continued drought seems inevitable.
Millions of migratory birds may be impacted along with other wildlife and our local economies. What can we do? Plenty!
Point Blue scientists and educators are working with scores of partners on nature-based strategies to reduce drought impacts on birds, other wildlife and our communities.
Together we are testing science-based approaches to enhance natural water storage and flow, while also guiding more effective and efficient use of water for multiple ecological and economic benefits.
Your gift today helps Point Blue reduce drought impacts on birds, other wildlife and our communities!
Nearly every drop of water in California is spoken for, managed, and subject to political and economic negotiation. To sustain wildlife and our communities, water management and policies demand innovative approaches (see Point Blue Quarterly, Fall 2013).
One stellar example of this can be found in California’s Central Valley, where over 90% of the original wetlands have been lost. Today, water is supplied through complex agreements to sustain some of the world’s most productive agriculture and most threatened wetland wildlife habitat.
Today, millions of Pacific Flyway waterfowl and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and other waterbirds are dependent on the Valley.
To support them, we need to sustain our remaining protected wetlands. We also need to ensure that additional, vital habitat continues to be provided by flooded agriculture—such as rice, alfalfa and other crops that require pulses of water or standing water for extended periods of time. Reliable water supplies for refuges and farms are absolutely crucial to conservation success.
Point Blue’s Catherine Hickey and her colleagues documented the Central Valley as one of the most important sites for shorebirds in the Americas. Catherine and her team have worked with refuge managers, producers, and other conservation NGOs such as Audubon California and The Nature Conservancy to identify management practices on wetlands and agricultural lands that have the greatest benefit for waterbird populations.
As the drought’s impacts are felt far and wide, decisions about how to allocate water to flooded agricultural lands and refuge wetlands will have increasingly significant importance to wetland-dependent birds.
Point Blue scientists are working with our partners to help communicate the importance of water supplies for our critical habitats and to help ensure that water is managed in ways that achieve the greatest conservation benefits, all while helping growers’ bottom lines and refuge managers meet their conservation goals.
Support Catherine and her team in making the best use of limited water supplies for birds and other wildlife with a generous gift today!
Point Blue is also testing nature-based solutions to severe drought in the meadows of the Sierra Nevada, a vital natural water storage bank, as we simultaneously lose permanent snow pack to increasingly warmer temperatures.
Meadows store and slowly release water, supporting lush vegetation, rich and diverse food sources, and cooler temperatures for birds and many other wildlife species.
As lower-elevation forests get hot and dry out, many bird species retreat upslope to high-elevation meadows. Ryan Burnett, Point Blue’s Sierra Nevada Group Director, has found these meadow refuges to be instrumental in sustaining most songbirds breeding in the Sierra Nevada, especially in dry years.
However, our montane meadows are at risk. Up to half of Sierra meadows are degraded from incompatible land uses, dwindling snowpack, drought, aquifer decline and extreme flood events which threaten to further unravel these sensitive habitats.
Ryan is working with the US Forest Service and other partners to restore meadows and increase their ability to hold and store water.
Your gift today helps Ryan guide and assess more effective meadow restoration across the Sierra Nevada, for birds, fresh water and down-stream communities!
Point Blue scientists are also working with ranchers across California’s rangelands improving grazing and other practices to capture water in the soil when it does rain! Under the leadership of Wendell Gilgert, we have hired 9 “partner biologists” who work hand-in-hand with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
We are already collaborating with 130 ranchers on 100,000 acres of rangeland. Our goal is to store water on 1.1 million acres of rangeland, equal to two Hetch Hetchy reservoirs, the reservoir that supplies the water to San Francisco!
More water in the soil means healthier ecosystems to sustain birds and other wildlife, especially in extremely dry years.
Help Wendell and our partner biologists “re-water” California’s rangelands with a generous gift today!
Your gift enables us to collaboratively restore mountain meadows, improve grazing practices and guide more efficient use of water for birds, other wildlife and our communities.
We face uncertainty about the future of water in California. But with hard work, sound science and strong, diverse partnerships, we are developing creative solutions. With your help, we will reduce drought impacts on birds, other wildlife and us all!