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Thermal range predicts bird population resilience to extreme high temperatures

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The identification of the characteristics of species that make them susceptible or resilient to climate change has been elusive because non-climatic influences may dominate short- and medium-term changes in population and distribution sizes. Here we studied the 2003 French heat wave, during which other confounding variables remained essentially unchanged, with a correlational approach. We tested the relationship between population resilience and thermal range by analysing the responses of 71 bird species to a 6-month heat wave. Species with small thermal ranges showed the sharpest decreases in population growth rate between 2003 and 2004 in locations with the highest temperature anomalies. Thermal range explained the resilience of birds to the heat wave independently of other potential predictors, although it correlated with nest location and broad habitat type used by species. The geographically deduced thermal range appears to be a reliable predictor of the resilience of these endothermic species to extreme temperatures.
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Keywords: Birds; climate envelope; climate warming; growth rate; heat wave; migratory birds; resilience; temperature anomaly; thermal maximum; thermal range

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology (Area 18), University of York, PO Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK 2: British Trust for Ornithology and European Bird Census Council, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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