Global Warming Threatens Waterfowl
By Jimmy Watson, The Shreveport Times
July 10, 2005
National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger calls it "a
Pandora's box," but Louisiana duck hunters just call it frustrating.
During a national teleconference last week, Schweiger and NWF Senior
Science Advisor Doug Inkley said that global warming is reducing the
number of ducks nationwide by affecting their breeding grounds, their
migration habits and Louisiana's coastal wetlands where ducks often
Louisiana duck hunters have noticed a major decline in area duck
populations over the past several years. The lack of ducks has been
blamed on a number of things, including the lack of a concerted
effort by conservation groups to improve breeding grounds.
"Duck hunting has gotten worse every year for the past several
years," said Shreveport hunter Phillip Legler, who has given up
hunting on Cross Lake. "I know that the populations of duck and geese
have been increasing, but they're not coming this far south."
Now conservation groups are apparently off the hook and Mother Nature
is on it.
A Pandora's box
"Global warming is opening a Pandora's box of problems that could
dramatically reduce populations of ducks and geese across the
nation," Schweiger said. "Global warming poses a basic threat to our
conservation tradition. It challenges our responsibility to be good
stewards of the water, land and wildlife. I am confident that
sportsmen will lead the way in confronting this challenge."
The teleconference was held in response to a NWF report,
entitled "The Waterfowler's Guide to Global Warming." The 39-page
report is viewable at www.nwf.org.
The changes caused by global warming are likely to have serious
implications for waterfowl in Louisiana.
According to the report, more than three-quarters of ducks found in
Louisiana originate in the Prairie Pothole region of the upper
Midwest and south central Canada. Millions of shallow depressions and
ponds in the area, known as "America's Duck Factory," make up one of
the most important waterfowl breeding areas on the continent.
Research indicates that warmer temperatures could reduce wetland
habitats in these vital duck breeding grounds up to 91 percent,
resulting in a significant decline in the abundance of ducks settling
to breed there. This will affect populations of ducks that winter in
Louisiana such as mallards, gadwall, blue-winged teal, northern
pintails, canvasbacks and redheads, the report said.
Bossier duck hunter Joe Maggio, who recently switched his allegiance
from Ducks Unlimited to Delta Waterfowl, said that he agrees that
global warming could be a cause of the lack of ducks in north
"While there were record-setting low temperatures up north the mid-
level states weren't that cold, so it didn't drive the ducks down to
us," Maggio said. "A lot of it has to do with which argument you're
willing to listen to, but I'm sure global warming is having an
The NWF report echoed Maggio's sentiments, saying that in addition to
causing a reduction in the number of ducks nationwide, warmer
temperatures in northern parts of the country could relieve the need
for waterfowl to fly as far south as Louisiana for the winter.
Threat to economy
"Along with smaller duck populations overall, we may see fewer of the
remaining ducks wintering here," said Randy Lanctot, executive
director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. "Louisiana is known as
a waterfowler's paradise, but the specter of global warming presents
a threat to this heritage and its contribution to the state's
A 2001 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey found that migratory
bird hunters spent $86.7 million on trips and equipment in Louisiana,
ranking the state sixth nationally.
"We must not allow global warming to take our nation's waterfowl
legacy away from our children," Schweiger said.
The report, the first comprehensive look at how global warming's
multiple effects threaten North American waterfowl, was issued by the
National Wildlife Federation and 27 of its affiliated state
conservation organizations, including the Louisiana Wildlife
It compiles the latest scientific research into how changes in
climate are affecting waterfowl and how increased temperatures will
likely affect breeding, migration and populations of ducks, geese and
other migratory species.
Global warming is already having an impact on waterfowl. In northern
breeding habitats, where average temperatures have risen
significantly, ducks and geese are responding by breeding earlier and
expanding their ranges farther north, the report states.
"We are looking at a potent combination of forces all coming together
over the next decades. The effect could be harmful to populations of
ducks and geese," said Patty Glick, global warming specialist for the
National Wildlife Federation and the report's author.
The report highlights additional challenges that waterfowl throughout
North America will likely face if global warming continues unabated.
For example, changes in precipitation patterns and declines in
average mountain snowpack are expected to affect the quality and
quantity of water in marshes and estuaries along the Pacific Coast.
Thawing permafrost and changes in the vegetation of boreal forests
and tundra regions of Alaska and Canada also could affect important
breeding habitat for a number of waterfowl species.
Waterfowl also are facing the loss of up to 45 percent of the coastal
wetlands they depend on in winter due to a rise in average sea
levels, the report states. Especially vulnerable are the shallow
wetlands of the Louisiana Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the report said.
These regions provide important wintering habitat for diving ducks
such as canvasbacks, redheads, ruddy ducks and scaup.
Climate scientists point to carbon pollution as the primary culprit
behind global warming. In the last 100 years, global temperature rose
by an average of 1 degree Fahrenheit, faster than at any time in
In places such as Alaska, the change has been even more dramatic. The
average temperature in Alaska has risen by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit
over the last century, and is causing problems associated with
softening permafrost and erosion along the state's coastline.
Temperatures globally are projected to rise on average from 2-10
degrees Fahrenheit in the coming decades, according to the report,
primarily because of carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels that
is trapping heat from being released in the atmosphere.