Climate adaptation difficult for Europe's birds

Jan 17, 2012

Åke Lindström is Professor of Animal Ecology at Lund University, Sweden. Together with other European researchers he has looked at 20 years' worth of data on birds, butterflies and summer temperatures. During this period, Europe has become warmer and set temperatures have shifted northwards by 250 km. Bird and butterfly communities have not moved at the same rate.

"Both and respond to climate change, but not fast enough to keep up with an increasingly warm climate. We don't know what the long-term ecological effects of this will be", says Åke Lindström.

Butterflies have adapted more quickly to the changing temperatures and have moved on average 114 km north, whereas birds have only moved 37 km. A likely reason is that butterflies have much shorter lifespans and therefore adapt more quickly to climate change. Because birds like to return to the same breeding ground as in previous years, there is also greater inertia in the bird system.

"A worrying aspect of this is if birds fall out of step with butterflies, because caterpillars and insects in general represent an important source of food for many birds", says Åke Lindström.

Sweden shows the strongest trends with regard to birds; however, there is no corresponding Swedish data for butterflies. For the study, the birds have been divided into 'cold' and 'warm' , i.e. birds that thrive in slightly cooler or warmer temperatures. For example, chaffinches and reed buntings are 'colder' species and blackcaps and goldfinches 'warmer' species. In general, the researchers have observed that 'warm' birds are on the increase and 'cold' birds are in decline. When new species are seen in an area and others disappear, it is more often 'warm' species that arrive and 'cold' species that disappear.

"Over the past 50 years the main factors affecting bird and butterfly numbers and distribution have been agriculture, forestry and urbanisation. is now emerging as an increasingly important factor in the development of biodiversity", says Åke Lindström, continuing: "For Sweden, this will probably mean more species of bird in the long run; many new species are already arriving from the continent."

Explore further: Man 'expelled from Croatia for punching monk seal'

More information: The article can be found here: www.nature.com/nclimate/journa… ll/nclimate1347.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

England's butterflies are at risk

Mar 05, 2006

England's butterflies are increasingly at risk, with the number of farmland butterflies declining by 30 percent over the last 10 years, a study finds.

European birds flock to warming Britain

Jul 30, 2008

Researchers at Durham, the RSPB and Cambridge University have found that birds such as the Cirl Bunting and Dartford Warbler are becoming more common across a wide range of habitats in Britain as temperatures rise.

British butterfly popuation is decreasing

Jul 18, 2005

Britain is losing a large portion of its butterfly population, with 7 of 10 species declining during the past 25 years, the Independent reported Monday.

'Early birds' adapt to climate change

May 09, 2008

Individual birds can adjust their behaviour to take climate change in their stride, according to a study by scientists from the University of Oxford.

Biofuels and biodiversity don't mix, ecologists warn

Jul 09, 2008

Rising demand for palm oil will decimate biodiversity unless producers and politicians can work together to preserve as much remaining natural forest as possible, ecologists have warned. A new study of the potential ecological ...

Recommended for you

Brother of Hibiscus is found alive and well on Maui

13 hours ago

Most people are familiar with Hibiscus flowers- they are an iconic symbol of tropical resorts worldwide where they are commonly planted in the landscape. Some, like Hawaii's State Flower- Hibiscus brackenridgei- are en ...

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

15 hours ago

While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes ...

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

Jul 30, 2014

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, collaborators from the University of Illinois and National University of Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species ...

Saving seeds the right way can save the world's plants

Jul 30, 2014

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world's most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks ...

User comments : 0