Grant to Initiate the GBRA/TAP Agreement

Goal to Address Long-Term Water Supply Needs in Guadalupe Basin and Safeguard Critical Whooping Crane Habitat

AUSTIN — The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and The Aransas Project (TAP) undertook the first step in the implementation of The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority/The Aransas Project Agreement (GBRA/TAP Agreement), announcing the receipt of a grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (www.CGMF.org).

The Aransas Project

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims

The grant is to develop a strategy and action plan to advance implementation of the GBRA/TAP Agreement toward a shared vision for future habitat and water for Guadalupe River System and San Antonio Bay.

Developed in 2016, the GBRA/TAP agreement was reached after years of litigation over freshwater inflows for San Antonio Bay and the long-term success of the only remaining flock of wild whooping cranes in the world.

The agreement sets up a process by which GBRA and TAP will jointly investigate issues associated with the future of water usage and availability on the Guadalupe and San Antonio River systems and the freshwater needs of the whooping cranes. The work under this agreement will consider both habitat issues for the whooping cranes as well as long-term water supply and inflow issues.

Under this planning grant, GBRA and TAP are designing a process to engage key stakeholders throughout the Guadalupe River Watershed and neighboring San Antonio and Aransas Bays to inform the development of the strategy and plan to support implementation of the Agreement. This research will begin in June and will continue into the fall.

The intent of GBRA and TAP is to create a study and evaluation process that will ultimately propose distinct courses of action to ensure whooping crane habitat and long-term water availability for both humans and nature.

About The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority

The Aransas ProjectThe Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority was established by the Texas Legislature in 1933 as a water conservation and reclamation district. GBRA provides stewardship for the water resources in its 10-county statutory district, which begins near the headwaters of the Guadalupe and Blanco rivers, ends at San Antonio Bay, and includes Kendall, Comal, Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales, DeWitt, Victoria, Calhoun, and Refugio counties. GBRA provides services that include hydroelectric generation; water and wastewater treatment; municipal, industrial, and agricultural raw water supply; and recreational operations.

About The Aransas Project

The Aransas ProjectThe Aransas Project was founded by a diverse group of organizations who believe that the whooping cranes, the Texas coast and the freshwater of the Guadalupe River Basin are essential to our way of life. TAP is committed to ensuring Guadalupe River flows from the Hill Country to the coast and for the protection of San Antonio and Aransas Bays and the endangered whooping crane. TAP’s membership includes governmental entities such as Aransas County, City of Rockport and Town of Fulton and non-governmental organizations such as the International Crane Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Texas, Matagorda Bay Foundation, Houston, Coastal Bend and Travis Audubon Societies, Aransas Bird and Nature Club, Aransas County Guides Association and several Rockport-area businesses.

For more information, contact:
Todd Votteler, tvotteler@gbra.org or (830) 379-5822 and
Jim Blackburn, jbb@blackburncarter.com or (713) 501-9840

Share

Are whooping cranes destined for extinction?

Are whooping cranes destined for extinction? Climate change imperils recruitment and population growth

Matther J. Butler, Kristine L. Metzger, Grant M. Harris
First published:

Summary

Are whooping cranes destined for extinction?

Whooping Cranes on their wintering grounds at Aransas NWR. Photo courtesy of Kevin Sims

Identifying climatic drivers of an animal population’s vital rates and locating where they operate steers conservation efforts to optimize species recovery. The population growth of endangered whooping cranes (Grus americana) hinges on juvenile recruitment. Therefore, we identify climatic drivers (solar activity [sunspots] and weather) of whooping crane recruitment throughout the species’ life cycle (breeding, migration, wintering).

Method and Model

Our method uses a repeated cross-validated absolute shrinkage and selection operator approach to identify drivers of recruitment. We model effects of climate change on those drivers to predict whooping crane population growth given alternative scenarios of climate change and solar activity. Years with fewer sunspots indicated greater recruitment. Increased precipitation during autumn migration signified less recruitment. On the breeding grounds, fewer days below freezing during winter and more precipitation during breeding suggested less recruitment. We predicted whooping crane recruitment and population growth may fall below long-term averages during all solar cycles when atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, as expected, to 500 ppm by 2050. Species recovery during a typical solar cycle with 500 ppm may require eight times longer than conditions without climate change and the chance of population decline increases to 31%.

Future climate change threat

Are whooping cranes destined for extinction?

Whooping cranes on nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo by John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

Although this whooping crane population is growing and may appear secure, long-term threats imposed by climate change and increased solar activity may jeopardize its persistence. Weather on the breeding grounds likely affects recruitment through hydrological processes and predation risk, whereas precipitation during autumn migration may influence juvenile mortality. Mitigating threats or abating climate change should occur within ≈30 years or this wild population of whooping cranes may begin declining.

To read full research article, click here.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

Share