New Paper Explores A New Method to Assess Population Change in Declining Songbirds

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National CASC biologist Madeleine Rubenstein and colleague, James Saracco with The Institute for Bird Populations, co-authored a scientific paper published in Ecology and Evolution about integrating broad-scale data to assess demographic and climatic contributions to population change in declining songbirds.

Read the original article paper published by Ecology and Evolution.

Small bird in a bush

Wilson's Warbler in the Andreafsky Wilderness, Yukon Delta NWR. (Credit: Kristine Sowl, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

Variations in climate can impact wildlife in many ways, including through changes to species’ range limits, declining reproductive success, and potentially species extinctions. These impacts highlight the urgent need for large-scale monitoring of species distribution and abundance. Currently, most studies that predict species response to climate change are implemented at small scales and lack necessary detail to fully understand the drivers behind observed changes. This study, partly funded by the National Climate Adaptation Science Center and co-authored by Madeleine Rubenstein, developed an integrated population model (IPM) to capture data relating to a declining migratory songbird, the Wilson’s warbler, in three genetically distinct breeding populations in western North America.

The climate variation data that was collected included information on spring temperatures on the birds’ breeding grounds, drought on the wintering range in northwest Mexico, and wind conditions during spring migration. Although spring temperatures were positively related to reproductive success, winter drought conditions had a negative effect on adult survival. This kind of comprehensive modeling approach represents a novel and flexible framework for linking broad‐scale multi‐site monitoring data sets, something that has been lacking in past similar research. This framework has the potential to be extended to additional species and systems, although it also needs additional data and/or model development in order to function at its full capacity.

This study was funded in part by the National CASC project Climate Change Impacts to Migratory Birds: Development of a Climate-informed Integrated Population Model

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