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Consistent response of bird populations to climate change on two continents

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Science  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6281, pp. 84-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4858

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Birds populations allied in abundance

Changes in climate can cause populations of species to decline, to increase, or to remain steady. Stephens et al. looked across species of common birds in Europe and the United States. Despite many differences between the two regions, expectations about how a species might respond to climate change did predict actual responses. Species predicted to benefit from increasing temperatures, or their associated effects, tended to increase, whereas those predicted to be negatively affected declined. Thus, even across widely varying ecological conditions and communities, climate change can be expected to alter population sizes.

Science, this issue p. 84

Abstract

Global climate change is a major threat to biodiversity. Large-scale analyses have generally focused on the impacts of climate change on the geographic ranges of species and on phenology, the timing of ecological phenomena. We used long-term monitoring of the abundance of breeding birds across Europe and the United States to produce, for both regions, composite population indices for two groups of species: those for which climate suitability has been either improving or declining since 1980. The ratio of these composite indices, the climate impact indicator (CII), reflects the divergent fates of species favored or disadvantaged by climate change. The trend in CII is positive and similar in the two regions. On both continents, interspecific and spatial variation in population abundance trends are well predicted by climate suitability trends.

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