Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arkansas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Donovan VM, Beck J, Wonkka CL, Roberts CP, Allen CR, Twidwell D. Declining pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) population productivity caused by woody encroachment and oil and gas development. Global Ecology and Conservation. e02848 .


Conservation is increasingly focused on preventing losses in species’ populations before they occur. Tracking changes in demographic parameters that can impact a population’s resilience in response to drivers of global change can support early conservation efforts. We assessed trends in population productivity (late summer juveniles per 100 females) relative to drivers of global change in 40 pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) herds across sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe in Wyoming. Pronghorn are an iconic rangeland species that have been exposed to increasing levels of anthropogenic, climatic, and land-use change. Using data collected across the state of Wyoming, we (1) assessed long-term trends in population productivity, (2) identified patterns in large-scale drivers of global change (i.e., climate, land cover change) across pronghorn habitat, and (3) determined the relationship between drivers of global change and population productivity over a 35-year (1984-2019) period. While Wyoming hosts some of the most abundant populations of pronghorn in North America that have been largely stable in recent years, we found many herds are experiencing long-term declines in productivity. Long-term declines in productivity were associated with increases in oil and gas development and woody encroachment. Although increasing across almost all herd units, woody vegetation cover remains at low levels, suggesting that pre-emptive management may help to prevent losses in pronghorn populations.