Time of emergence of novel climates for North American migratory bird populations

6 February 2019

La Sorte, Frank; Fink , Daniel ; Johnston, Alison

To better understand the ecological implications of global climate change for species that display geographically and seasonally dynamic life-history strategies, we need to determine where and when novel climates are projected to first emerge. Here, we use a multivariate approach to estimate time of emergence (ToE) of novel climates based on three climate variables (precipitation, minimum and maximum temperature) at a weekly temporal resolution within the Western Hemisphere over a 280-year period (2021-2300) under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). We intersect ToE estimates with weekly estimates of relative abundance for 77 passerine bird species that migrate between temperate breeding grounds in North America and southern tropical and subtropical wintering grounds using observations from the eBird citizen-science database. During the non-breeding season, migrants that winter within the tropics are projected to encounter novel climates during the second half of this century. Migrants that winter in the subtropics are projected to encounter novel climates during the first half of the next century. During the beginning of the breeding season, migrants on their temperate breeding grounds are projected to encounter novel climates during the first half of the next century. During the end of the breeding season, migrants are projected to encounter novel climates during the second half of this century. Thus, novel climates will first emerge ca. 40-50 years earlier during the second half of the breeding season. These results emphasize the large seasonal and spatial variation in the formation of novel climates, and the pronounced challenges migratory birds are likely to encounter during this century, especially on their tropical wintering grounds and during the transition from breeding to migration. When assessing the ecological implications of climate change, our findings emphasize the value of applying a full annual cycle perspective using standardized metrics that promote comparisons across space and time.

Doi
10.1111/ecog.04408