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Climate Change and Waterfowl


Background on climate change

The issue of global climate change has received much attention in recent years. Most scientists predict that climate change will affect almost every aspect of our environment, including North America’s wetlands and waterfowl. Projections for the next 100 years indicate an acceleration of ongoing impacts, including extensive warming in many areas, shifting patterns of precipitation, sea level rise, changes in the timing and length of the seasons, declining mountain snow packs, and increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather events.

Continental impacts of climate change

Most major waterfowl habitats in North America face potentially significant, detrimental impacts from the effects of climate change. Historic waterfowl breeding grounds such as the Prairie Pothole Region and Western Boreal Forest could experience significant landscape changes and face more variable weather and precipitation, which could result in diminished waterfowl breeding populations in these areas over the long term. Coastal marshes on wintering grounds such as the Gulf Coast and Chesapeake Bay could be inundated by rising sea levels, significantly reducing their capacity to support waterfowl. The Central Valley of California, a key wintering area for pintails and other Pacific Flyway waterfowl, could see changes in water availability that will also impact waterfowl habitat abundance.

Ducks Unlimited and climate change

DU relies on objective, independent, and expertly reviewed science to guide its policy and conservation actions. DU biologists and other staff continually monitor scientific literature and the research of academic, federal, and state research institutions to inform conservation decisions. This approach has led to effective conservation across this continent and recognition by partners, government agencies, and legislators that DU is a credible, balanced, science-based organization.

After examining the best available science on the issue, DU’s conservation staff has determined that climate change poses a significant threat to North America’s waterfowl that could undermine achievements gained through more than 70 years of conservation work. As a result, DU’s science staff is studying and planning for the potential impacts of climate change to ensure wetland and waterfowl management objectives are achieved and policy efforts that reduce the threat of climate change and enhance the resiliency and sustainability of wildlife and their habitats are implemented. Using scientifically proven methods to sequester atmospheric carbon, DU and partners have developed programs that conserve vital waterfowl habitat and reduce atmospheric carbon, benefiting waterfowl, hunters, private landowners, and the nation.

DU participates in the Sportsman's Advisory Group on Climate Change

The nation’s waterfowl hunters have a stake in the complex issue of climate change as potential impacts on the environment could significantly impact waterfowl, their habitats, and future hunting opportunities. The Sportsman's Advisory Group on Climate Change consists of nine of the nation’s top conservation organizations. These groups are well suited to assess climate change impacts on fish and wildlife resources and to represent the interests of sportsmen and -women across the nation on this issue. DU is there to speak for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters and represent their interests. Learn more at www.seasonsend.org.

More information


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