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Large-scale effect of climate change on breeding parameters of pied flycatchers in Western Europe

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Variations in laying date and clutch size of pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca across populations throughout western Europe are examined in relation to climatic fluctuations, measured by the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index. Across breeding sites, the winter-NAO index affected laying date such that females lay earlier after warmer and moister winters (positive values of winter NAO-index). Female pied flycatchers breed progressively earlier because presumably the whole breeding season is being shifted, as a direct result of the positive values of winter NAO-index. Moreover, clutch size of pied flycatchers across populations was negatively related to winter NAO-index during the last 50 yr. These analyses controlled for potentially confounding variables such as latitude, longitude, elevation and habitat of each study site. The present study conclude that pied flycatchers across western Europe are breeding earlier and laying smaller clutch sizes and that the most likely cause is a long-term increase in spring temperature. On the other hand, this study shows that climate change may not act uniformly between breeding populations in Western Europe. From those results, this study concludes that northern pied flycatcher populations are more sensitive to climate change than southern populations breeding in montane habitats.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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