Western Alaska consists of the Norton Sound, Bering Sea Islands, Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta which is the largest riverine delta in western North America. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is one of the most important waterbird areas on the continent. Within 40 miles of the coast, this area is directly impacted by tidal action, but annual precipitation, river action and permafrost play significant roles in wetland function.
Importance to waterfowl
- Estimated breeding population of 1.3 million to 1.7 million ducks in the Yukon Delta.
- Nearly the entire population of emperor and cackling Canada geese, and nearly 70 percent of the continental population of black brant.
- This region, combined with the shore of the Arctic Coastal Plain, is the most important area for sea ducks in North America.
- More than 9 million waterfowl are heavily dependent on Bering Sea habitats, approximately 11 percentof the continental populations.
- The principal risk in this area is contamination of near shore waters.
- Dramatic population declines for several species of sea ducks have been observed, but causes are unknown.
- Floating petroleum in the near shore waters or the principal lagoons of the Bering Sea could destroy large numbers of geese and sea ducks.
- Similarly, oil cast by storm tides into the nesting habitats of the Yukon Delta could cause considerable waterfowl mortality.
DU's conservation focus
- Expand partnerships with developed image classification protocol and technology of waterbird habitat use and relationship to fire histories.
- Pursue research projects with Alaska Science Center and universities on tundra ecology, northern pintail, greater scaup, sea duck and emperor goose ecology, and the relationship that Bering Sea marine environments play to western Alaska waterbird habitats.
- Focus on gaining critical resource information that can be used for risk assessment of potential degradation.
States included in the Western Alaska / Aleutian - Bering Sea Islands