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Potential impacts of climatic change on the breeding and non-breeding ranges and migration distance of European Sylvia warblers

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Abstract Aim 

To explore the potential impacts of climatic change on species with different migratory strategies using Sylvia warblers breeding in Europe as a ‘model’ species group. Location 

Europe and Africa. Methods 

Climate response surfaces and generalized additive models (GAMs) were used to model relationships between species recorded breeding and non-breeding ranges and recent climate. Species potential future breeding and non-breeding ranges were simulated for three scenarios of late 21st-century climate. The simulated potential future and present ranges were compared in terms of their relative extent and overlap, as well as their location. The impact of any shifts in potential range location on migration distance were quantified. Results 

Potential breeding ranges consistently showed a shift northwards, whereas potential non-breeding ranges showed no consistent directional shift, even when trans-Saharan migrants were considered separately from resident/short-distance or partial migrants. Future potential range extent relative to simulated recent range extent varied considerably among species, although on average range extent increased. Overlap between future and recent simulated range was generally low, averaging < 36% for both breeding and non-breeding ranges. Overlap was consistently less for range-restricted than for widespread species. Migration distance increased generally, by about twice as much in the case of trans-Saharan migrant species than for short-distance migrants. In many cases potential future non-breeding areas were simulated in regions far from the species present non-breeding area, suggesting that new migration strategies and routes may need to be developed in response to climatic change. Main conclusions 

Migratory species can be expected to suffer greater negative impacts from climatic change than species that are resident or undertake only short-distance or partial migrations. Trans-Saharan migrants face the greatest potential increases in migration distances, whereas range-restricted species are expected to experience major population reductions because of the limited, or in some cases lack of, overlap between their present and potential future ranges.

Keywords: Climate change; Palaearctic; Sylvia; climate envelope model; climate response surface; distribution; generalized additive models; migratory birds; species range change

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, UK

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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