Identifying habitat conservation needs for the endangered whooping crane along the Central Texas Coast
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The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping cranes (Grus americana) make up the only natural self-sustaining population of these endangered migratory wading birds in the world. Human and natural pressures threaten habitat quantity, quality, and integrity on their wintering grounds along the central Texas coast. This project developed tools for habitat conservation planning to support the endangered species downlisting goal of 1,000 cranes in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population. First, a Comprehensive Habitat Type Database (CHTD) of benthic, wetland, and upland environments was developed from best available land cover information and bathymetric data. Then, habitat preference was determined using the CHTD and a spatially explicit dataset of whooping crane sightings from 2004 to 2010. About 1,000 km2 of preferred habitat were mapped across the 7,000 km2 study area. Projected losses and gains of preferred habitat as a result of sea level rise were then identified using results from the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) for various sea level rise scenarios up to the year 2100. Under 1 m of sea level rise, about 33% of preferred habitat is expected to be lost by 2100. Results showed that to reach the International Recovery Plan downlisting goal of 1,000 cranes, habitat conservation efforts must extend beyond the central Texas coast.
A Thesis Paper Submitted In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Environmental Science Program Corpus Christi, Texas