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  1. Data that influence policy and major investment decisions risk entrenching social and political inequities

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 5, 2025
  2. Abstract Aim

    As climate change increases the frequency and severity of droughts in many regions, conservation during drought is becoming a major challenge for ecologists. Droughts are multidimensional climate events whose impacts may be moderated by changes in temperature, water availability or food availability, or some combination of these. Simultaneously, other stressors such as extensive anthropogenic landscape modification may synergize with drought. Useful observational models for guiding conservation decision‐making during drought require multidimensional, dynamic representations to disentangle possible drought impacts, and consequently, they will require large, highly resolved data sets. In this paper, we develop a two‐stage predictive framework for assessing how drought impacts vary with species, habitats and climate pathways.


    Central Valley, California, USA.


    We used a two‐stage counterfactual analysis combining predictive linear mixed models and N‐mixture models to characterize the multidimensional impacts of drought on 66 bird species. We analysed counts from the eBird participatory science data set between 2010 and 2019 and produced species‐ and habitat‐specific estimates of the impact of drought on relative abundance.


    We found that while fewer than a quarter (16/66) of species experienced abundance declines during drought, nearly half of all species (27/66) changed their habitat associations during drought. Among species that shifted their habitat associations, the use of natural habitats declined during drought while use of developed habitat and perennial agricultural habitat increased.

    Main Conclusions

    Our findings suggest that birds take advantage of agricultural and developed land with artificial irrigation and heat‐buffering microhabitat structure, such as in orchards or parks, to buffer drought impacts. A working lands approach that promotes biodiversity and mitigates stressors across a human‐induced water gradient will be critical for conserving birds during drought.

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  3. Abstract

    Over 70% of the 62 million hectares of cropland in the Midwestern United States is grown in corn-based rotations. These crop rotations are caught in a century-long simplification trend despite robust evidence demonstrating yield and soil benefits from diversified rotations. Our ability to explore and explain this trend will come in part from observing the biophysical and policy influences on farmers’ crop choices at one key level of management: the field. Yet field-level crop rotation patterns remain largely unstudied at regional scales and will be essential for understanding how national agricultural policy manifests locally and interacts with biophysical phenomena to erode—or bolster—soil and environmental health, agricultural resilience, and farmers’ livelihoods. We developed a novel indicator of crop rotational complexity and applied it to 1.5 million fields across the US Midwest. We used bootstrapped linear mixed models to regress field-level rotational complexity against biophysical (land capability, precipitation) and policy-driven (distance to the nearest biofuel plant and grain elevator) factors. After accounting for spatial autocorrelation, there were statistically clear negative relationships between rotational complexity and biophysical factors (land capability and precipitation during the growing season), indicating decreased rotation in prime growing areas. A positive relationship between rotational complexity and distance to the nearest biofuel plant suggests policy-based, as well as biophysical, constraints on regional rotations. This novel RCI is a promising tool for future fine-scale rotational analysis and demonstrates that the United States’ most fertile soils are the most prone to degradation, with recent policy choices further exacerbating this trend.

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