Aarhus Universitets segl

Why do avian responses to change in Arctic green-up vary?

New publication by Tavera, E. A., Lank, D. B., Douglas, D. C., Sandercock, B. K., Lanctot, R. B., Schmidt, N. M., Reneerkens, J., Ward, D. H., Bêty, J., Kwon, E., Lecomte, N., Gratto-Trevor, C., Smith, P. A., English, W. B., Saalfeld, S. T., Brown, S. C., Gates, H. R., Nol, E., Liebezeit, J. R., ... Gurney, K. E. B.


Abstract Global climate change has altered the timing of seasonal events (i.e., phenology) for a diverse range of biota. Within and among species, however, the degree to which alterations in phenology match climate variability differ substantially. To better understand factors driving these differences, we evaluated variation in timing of nesting of eight Arctic-breeding shorebird species at 18 sites over a 23-year period. We used the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index as a proxy to determine the start of spring (SOS) growing season and quantified relationships between SOS and nest initiation dates as a measure of phenological responsiveness. Among species, we tested four life history traits (migration distance, seasonal timing of breeding, female body mass, expected female reproductive effort) as species-level predictors of responsiveness. For one species (Semipalmated Sandpiper), we also evaluated whether responsiveness varied across sites. Although no species in our study completely tracked annual variation in SOS, phenological responses were strongest for Western Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Red Phalaropes. Migration distance was the strongest additional predictor of responsiveness, with longer-distance migrant species generally tracking variation in SOS more closely than species that migrate shorter distances. Semipalmated Sandpipers are a widely distributed species, but adjustments in timing of nesting relative to variability in SOS did not vary across sites, suggesting that different breeding populations of this species were equally responsive to climate cues despite differing migration strategies. Our results unexpectedly show that long-distance migrants are more sensitive to local environmental conditions, which may help them to adapt to ongoing changes in climate.