Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

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Tag Archive: birds

  1. For Birds & People — Water, Carbon, and Education, Point Blue E-News July 28 2017

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    July 2017 Point Blue E-News

    Data-Driven Water Management
    It takes science and partnership to figure out the best way to manage limited supplies of fresh water in California’s Central Valley for humans and wildlife. A recent paper co-authored by Point Blue scientists shows a worrisome mismatch in flooded habitat and shorebird spring migration. This has important implications for how government agencies and NGO partners manage water on refuges and in agricultural fields.

    Coming soon, thanks to further funding from NASA, we’ll be analyzing more satellite data with our newly hired Quantitative Ecologist, Dr. Erin Conlisk. Our goal is to figure out when and where to put water to achieve the greatest benefit for wetland-dependent wildlife while also recharging groundwater and providing recreational opportunities. Stay tuned for results!

    Meadows & Climate Change
    Our science is helping to determine if restored Sierra meadows can store enough carbon to help slow climate change while also benefitting birds and other wildlife. The outcome could help direct more funds from California’s cap-and-trade program toward meadow restoration, and it looks promising! Read this wonderful Audubon article highlighting Point Blue’s collaborative work.

    Climate Science Education: New Tools!
    Today’s young people need climate science knowledge to help build a better future for themselves and the next generations. That’s why we’ve created and disseminated a climate-smart riparian restoration curriculum, which you can find here. We’ve also added a number of our science resources to the Bay Area Climate Literacy and Impact Collaborative database for Bay Area educators here. We invite you to use these resources and share them with others. Together we are educating and inspiring the next wave of climate-smart conservation leaders!

    Thanks for your continued, generous support of Point Blue’s science.

  2. Greatest threat to forest birds of eastern US is habitat loss on wintering grounds; magnified by climate change in future

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    • the first study to measure the combined impact of climate change and land-use change over a bird’s full annual cycle
    • The study finds loss of wintering habitat in the near future will likely be magnified by the long-term effects of climate change.

    July 24 2017 Cornell University read full ScienceDaily article here

    Within the next few decades, human-caused habitat loss looms as the greatest threat to some North American breeding birds. The problem will be most severe on their wintering grounds, according to a new study published today in the journal Global Change Biology. By the end of this century, the study’s authors say predicted changes in rainfall and temperature will compound the problem for birds that breed in eastern North America and winter in Central America.

    “This is really the first study to measure the combined impact of climate change and land-use change over a bird’s full annual cycle,” says lead author Frank La Sorte at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Typically, studies tend to focus on the breeding season. If you do that, you’re missing the real story which is inherently dynamic and complex.”

    Migrant wintering grounds are vitally important because the birds spend a greater proportion of the year in these places…

    Frank A. La Sorte, Daniel Fink, Peter J. Blancher and Steve Kelling. Global change and the distributional dynamics of migratory bird populations wintering in Central America. Global Change Biology · July 2017 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13794

    Abstract
    Understanding the susceptibility of highly mobile taxa such as migratory birds to global change requires information on geographic patterns of occurrence across the annual cycle. Neotropical migrants that breed in North America and winter in Central America occur in high concentrations on their non-breeding grounds where they spend the majority of the year and where habitat loss has been associated with population declines. Here, we use eBird data to model weekly patterns of abundance and occurrence for 21 forest passerine species that winter in Central America. We estimate species’ distributional dynamics across the annual cycle, which we use to determine how species are currently associated with public protected areas and projected changes in climate and land-use.
    The effects of global change on the non-breeding grounds is characterized by decreasing precipitation, especially during the summer, and the conversion of forest to cropland, grassland, or peri-urban. The effects of global change on the breeding grounds are characterized by increasing winter precipitation, higher temperatures, and the conversion of forest to peri-urban. During spring and autumn migration, species are projected to encounter higher temperatures, forests that have been converted to peri-urban, and increased precipitation during spring migration.
    Based on current distributional dynamics, susceptibility to global change is characterized by the loss of forested habitats on the non-breeding grounds, warming temperatures during migration and on the breeding grounds, and declining summer rainfall on the non-breeding grounds.
    Public protected areas with low and medium protection status are more prevalent on the non-breeding grounds, suggesting that management opportunities currently exist to mitigate near-term non-breeding habitat losses. These efforts would affect more individuals of more species during a longer period of the annual cycle, which may create additional opportunities for species to respond to changes in habitat or phenology that are likely to develop under climate change
  3. Can Restored Meadows Fight Climate Change? California Seeks to Find Out [Sierra Meadows Partnership research]

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    • Franson’s work [with Point Blue] is one of eight studies on carbon storage in Sierra Nevada meadows, all of which are part of California’s pioneering cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
    • California’s cap-and-trade extension, passed by lawmakers this week, ensures continued study of whether Sierra Nevada meadow restoration can capture carbon pollution and help birds at once.

    …The Sierra Meadows Partnership should help these species, even though its primary goal relates to climate change. Scientists know soils store three times more carbon than vegetation and the atmosphere combined. It’s stored in plants’ deep root systems, and in the accumulation of their dead tissue over time. But changes to the landscape have limited or reversed centuries of carbon storage. Degraded meadows store less carbon, and warmer temperatures from climate change may release carbon back into the atmosphere.

    The Sierra Meadows Partnership is focused on identifying how much carbon meadows are storing, how much they are losing, and whether restoration makes a difference. The group has identified 16 meadows ranging in elevation from 3,045 to nearly 8,700 feet; half are being restored, while the others will serve as control sites that allow scientists to measure the effects of restoration….

    A 2014 study, published by Point Blue Conservation Science, found that restored meadows in the northern Sierra Nevada have the potential to support up to 10 times more breeding bird species and individuals than degraded sites. And preliminary results from a study of meadows restored between 2001 and 2016 found 20 percent more soil carbon, on average, in restored meadows compared to degraded ones….

    Key organizations in the Sierra Meadows Partnership:

    • California Tahoe Conservancy
    • Trust for Public Lands
    • Sierra Foothills Conservancy
    • USGS
    • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
    • Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
    • Feather River Land Trust
    • Point Blue Conservation Science
    • Sierra Fund
    • South Yuba River Citizens League
    • CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
    • US Forest Service
    • Stillwater Sciences
    • Institute for Bird Populations
    • University of Nevada, Reno
    • UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences
    • UC Merced
    • American Rivers
    • Plumas Corps
    • Truckee River Watershed Council
    • Trout Unlimited
    • The Nature Conservancy
    • Todd Sloat Biological Consulting
    • Sabra Purdy Consulting
    • National Forest Foundation
  4. Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation

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    Why didn’t the bird cross the road? Because it was afraid of predators and venturing into another bird’s territory

    Posted: 19 Jul 2017 07:05 AM PDT  see full ScienceDaily article here

    It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control….

    …The authors of the study strongly advise that measures are put in place to connect fragments of forest across roads, allowing wildlife to move freely…”There are wildlife-friendly solutions to many of these issues, such as specially-designed overpasses, fauna underpasses and fencing so animals can avoid accessing the road, all of which need to be incorporated into the design of our road systems. Further studies should look at the impacts of man-made breaks in vegetation, such as forest tracks and park walkways on bird movements,” adds Professor Jones. “We are currently using our data to identify the ‘at risk’ bird species within suburban areas, to assist with conservation management.”

    Christopher D. Johnson, Daryl Evans, Darryl Jones. Birds and Roads: Reduced Transit for Smaller Species over Roads within an Urban Environment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00036

  5. Chillier Winters, Smaller Beaks

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    • researchers found no correlation with summer temperatures but a clear one for winter — the coldest winters were associated with the smallest beaks, whereas warmer winters were associated with larger beaks.

    Posted: 13 Jul 2017 05:20 AM PDT see full ScienceDaily article here

    …in the 1990s, researchers began to explore a new question concerning the relationship between climate and the evolution of beak size…..[before this study]… feeding habits were believed to be the greatest driving force in beak evolution…

    …[comparing] differences between individuals of the same species that are living in wildly different conditions…. the researchers found no correlation with summer temperatures but a clear one for winter — the coldest winters were associated with the smallest beaks, whereas warmer winters were associated with larger beaks.

    …Allen’s Rule, which states that warm-blooded animals living in cold climates will have shorter limbs and appendages than those that live in warmer climates. The biological mechanism behind this rule is thermoregulation — more body surface area helps animals to shed heat better whereas less surface area helps them to conserve it. Since a bird’s beak plays a large role in thermoregulation — it has lots of blood vessels and is not covered in feathers — researchers wondered whether hotter climates beget larger beaks and colder climates beget smaller ones. Indeed, studies revealed that climate has influenced beak size, but not which type of climate had more of an overall impact….

    Nicholas R. Friedman, Lenka Harmáčková, Evan P. Economo, Vladimír Remeš. Smaller beaks for colder winters: Thermoregulation drives beak size evolution in Australasian songbirds. Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/evo.13274

     

  6. How eggs got their shapes

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    Posted: 22 Jun 2017 11:30 AM PDT  see full article here

    The evolution of the amniotic egg — complete with membrane and shell — was key to vertebrates leaving the oceans and colonizing the land and air but how bird eggs evolved into so many different shapes and sizes has long been a mystery. Now, an international team of scientists took a quantitative approach to that question and found that adaptations for flight may have been critical drivers of egg-shape variation in birds….

    …”To maintain sleek and streamlined bodies for flight, birds appear to lay eggs that are more asymmetric or elliptical. With these egg shapes, birds can maximize egg volume without increasing the egg’s width — this is an advantage in narrow oviducts.”

    So an albatross and a hummingbird, while two very different birds, may have evolved similarly shaped eggs because both are high-powered fliers.

    It’s clear from our study that variation in the size and shape of bird eggs is not simply random but is instead related to differences in ecology, including the amount of calcium in the diet, and particularly the extent to which each species is designed for powerful flight” says coauthor Dr. Joseph Tobias from Imperial College, UK.

    Mary Caswell Stoddard, Ee Hou Yong, Derya Akkaynak, Catherine Sheard, Joseph A. Tobias, L. Mahadevan. Avian egg shape: Form, function, and evolution. Science, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj1945

  7. Birds’ feathers reveal their winter diet

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    Posted: 21 Jun 2017 05:28 AM PDT  see full PhysOrg article here

    Influences outside the breeding season matter a lot for the population health of migratory birds, but it’s tough to track what happens once species scatter for the winter. A study now tries a new approach for determining what …bobolinks eat after they head south for the winter — analyzing the carbon compounds in their plumage, which are determined by the types of plants the birds consume during their winter molt….

    Rosalind B. Renfrew, Jason M. Hill, Daniel H. Kim, Christopher Romanek, and Noah G.
    Perlut. Winter diet of Bobolink, a long-distance migratory grassland bird, inferred from feather isotopes. The Condor, 119(3):439-448.

    American Ornithological Society https://doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-16-162.1
  8. Special Issue: Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B

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    Cover image expansion

    Cover image: The saltmarsh sparrow nests near the edge of estuaries, where their nests often flood during extreme high tides, which occur around the new and full moons. The flooding events are becoming more frequent as climate change causes sea levels to rise. (Photo credit: Jeanna Mielcarek.)

  9. Bird and other animal responses to extreme climatic events: challenges and directions

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    • Extreme weather has greater impact on nature than expected
    • 2 bird species – Oystercatchers and Fairy Wrens- responded very differently
    • In the special June issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B researchers of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) launch a new approach to these ‘extreme’ studies.

    May 16 2017 Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)  from ScienceDaily

    …Extremes, outliers, cataclysms. As a field of biological research it’s still in its infancy, but interest in the impact of extreme weather and climate events on nature is growing rapidly. That’s partly because it is now increasingly clear that the impact of extreme events on animal behaviour, ecology and evolution could well be greater than that of the ‘normal’ periods in between. And partly because the frequency of such events is likely to increase, due to climate change….

    …But how do we define extreme events in the first place? That’s problematic, explain NIOO researchers Marcel Visser and Martijn van de Pol. “For climatologists, weather has to be warmer, colder or more extreme in another way than it is 95% of the time. But that doesn’t necessarily make it extreme in terms of its impact on nature. There isn’t a 1 to 1 correspondence.”..

    ….The researchers were keen to find out if the birds would learn from experience and build their nests on higher ground — safer but further from their favourite sea food, “but they don’t.” This could result in natural selection based on nest elevation, with only breeders who build their nest on high ground likely to survive. But this could affect the future viability of the population.

    Less cataclysmic events, too, can have major consequences. Two examples from Phil. Trans. B are oystercatchers that build their nests close to the coast despite rising sea levels, and fairy-wrens — Australian passerine birds — that are increasingly exposed to heatwaves and high temperatures, with sometimes fatal consequences…So how do they respond over time? Do they change their body size to mediate the impact of the extreme temperatures? Van de Pol: “Data over nearly 40 years shows that the two species, although quite similar, respond in completely different ways.”

    Martijn van de Pol, Stéphanie Jenouvrier, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Marcel E. Visser. Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events: challenges and directions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 372 (1723): 20160134 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0134

    From Abstract: By summarizing the contributions to this theme issue we draw parallels between behavioural, ecological and evolutionary ECE studies, and suggest that an overarching challenge is that most empirical and theoretical evidence points towards responses being highly idiosyncratic, and thus predictability being low. Finally, we suggest a roadmap based on the proposition that an increased focus on the mechanisms behind the biological response function will be crucial for increased understanding and predictability of the impacts of ECE.

  10. Migratory birds bumped off schedule as climate change shifts spring

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    May 15, 2017 Florida Museum of Natural History see full ScienceDaily article here

    New research shows climate change is altering the delicate seasonal clock that North American migratory songbirds rely on to successfully mate and raise healthy offspring, setting in motion a domino effect that could threaten the survival of many familiar backyard bird species.

    A growing shift in the onset of spring has left 9 of 48 species of songbirds studied unable to reach their northern breeding grounds at the calendar marks critical for producing the next generation of fledglings, according to a paper published in Scientific Reports. That’s because in many regions, warming temperatures are triggering plants to begin their growth earlier or later than normal, skewing biological cycles that have long been in sync.

    The result, researchers say, could be a future much like the one Rachel Carson hinted at more than 50 years ago. “It’s like ‘Silent Spring,’ …”We’re seeing spring-like conditions well before birds arrive. The growing mismatch means fewer birds are likely to survive, reproduce and return the following year. …”

    …The study is the first to investigate the increasing mismatch between songbirds’ springtime arrival and plant growth at the continental scale and across dozens of species, said Mayor, who led the project chiefly at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

    Stephen J. Mayor, Robert P. Guralnick, Morgan W. Tingley, Javier Otegui, John C. Withey, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Margaret E. Andrew, Stefan Leyk, Ian S. Pearse, David C. Schneider. Increasing phenological asynchrony between spring green-up and arrival of migratory birds. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-02045-z