Sensitivity to weather drives Great Basin mesic resources and greater sage-grouse productivity
We found the predicted positive relationship between mesic habitat availability and sage-grouse productivity, but annual precipitation explained additional variation in productivity even after accounting for mesic habitat availability. Hence, precipitation and drought may drive sage-grouse productivity via more than one mechanism acting on multiple demographic rates. Productivity was also limited by exotic annual grass invasion and conifer encroachment. Mesic habitat availability was a function of topographic relief, mean elevation, annual mean snow water equivalent, and winter temperatures, indicating that snowpack recharges the late summer mesic resources that support sage-grouse productivity. Management actions focused on maintaining and restoring mesic resources and drought resilient habitats, limiting the spread of exotic annual grasses, and reversing conifer encroachment should support future sage-grouse recruitment and help mitigate the effects of climate change.