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Weather effects on avian breeding performance and implications of climate change

January 1, 2012

The influence of recent climate change on the world’s biota has manifested broadly, resulting in latitudinal range shifts, advancing dates of arrival of migrants and onset of breeding, and altered community relationships. Climate change elevates conservation concerns worldwide because it will likely exacerbate a broad range of identified threats to animal populations. In the past few decades, grassland birds have declined faster than other North American avifauna, largely due to habitat threats such as the intensification of agriculture. We examine the effects of local climatic variations on the breeding performance of a bird endemic to the shortgrass prairie, the Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) and discuss the implications of our findings relative to future climate predictions. Clutch size, nest survival, and productivity all positively covaried with seasonal precipitation, yet relatively intense daily precipitation events temporarily depressed daily survival of nests. Nest survival was positively related to average temperatures during the breeding season. Declining summer precipitation may reduce the likelihood that Lark Buntings can maintain stable breeding populations in eastern Colorado although average temperature increases of up to 38C (within the range of this study) may ameliorate declines in survival expected with drier conditions. Historic climate variability in the Great Plains selects for a degree of vagility and opportunism rather than strong site fidelity and specific adaptation to local environments. These traits may lead to northerly shifts in distribution if climatic and habitat conditions become less favorable in the drying southern regions of the Great Plains. Distributional shifts in Lark Buntings could be constrained by future changes in land use, agricultural practices, or vegetative communities that result in further loss of shortgrass prairie habitats.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Weather effects on avian breeding performance and implications of climate change
DOI 10.1890/11-0291.1
Authors Susan K. Skagen, Amy A. Yackel Adams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Applications
Index ID 70118139
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse

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