Impact of climate change on migratory birds: Community reassembly versus adaptation

  • Schaefer H
  • Jetz W
  • Böhning-Gaese K
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Aim Species can respond to global climate change by range shifts or by phenotypic adaptation. At the community level, range shifts lead to a turnover of species, i.e. community reassembly. In contrast, phenotypic adaptation allows species to persist in situ , conserving community composition. So far, community reassembly and adaptation have mostly been studied separately. In nature, however, both processes take place simultaneously. In migratory birds, climate change has been shown to result in both exchange of species and adaptation of migratory behaviour. The aim of our study is to predict the impact of global climate change on migratory bird communities and to assess the extent to which reassembly and adaptation may contribute to alterations. Location Europe. Methods We analysed the relationship between current climate and the propor- tion of migratory species across bird assemblages in Europe. The magnitude of com- munity reassembly was measured using spatial variation in the proportion of potentially migratory species. Adaptation was inferred from spatial variation in the proportion of potentially migratory species that actually migrate at a specific site. These spatial relationships were used to make temporal predictions of changes in migratory species under global climate change. Results According to our models, increasing winter temperature is expected to lead to declines in the proportion of migratory species, whereas increasing spring temperature and decreasing spring precipitation may lead to increases. Changes in winter and spring temperature are expected to cause mainly adaptation in migratory activity, while changes in spring precipitation may result in both changes in the proportion of potentially migratory species and adaptation of migratory activity. Main conclusions Under current climate change forecasts, changes in the propor- tion of migratory species will be modest and the communities of migratory birds in Europe are projected to be altered through adaptation of migratory activity rather than through exchange of species.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bird migration
  • European bird community
  • Evolutionary response
  • Global warming
  • Migratory activity
  • Species turnover

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  • Hans Christian Schaefer

  • Walter Jetz

  • Katrin Böhning-Gaese

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