Boreal bird species of conservation concern affected by climate change

December 17, 2012
This is the cover of the 3rd issue of Nature Conservation. Credit: Pensoft Publishers

A protected area network should ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, but climate is changing rapidly, thereby creating further demand for the protected area network to be efficient in preserving biota. Due to climate change species ranges are expected to move polewards, which poses challenges to the protected area network.

Population changes of different groups according to their habitat preferences in boreal protected areas in Finland were studied on the basis of large-scale bird censuses carried out in 1981 and in 2000. Mean temperatures rose clearly between the two time slices in Finland, for example, mean April-June by 0.7 °C.

The study "Preserving species populations in the boreal zone in a : contrasting trends of bird species groups in a protected area network" by Raimo Virkkala from the Finnish Environment Institute and Ari Rajasärkkä from Metsähallitus was published in the open access journal Nature Conservation. Bird censuses were compiled and organized by Metsähallitus, which governs the stated-owned protected areas in Finland. Tens of competent ornithologists carried out the censuses, which included altogether over 11,600 km of line transects.

According to the study, population densities of common forest habitat generalists remained the same between the two periods, while densities of species of conservation concern showed contrasting trends: species preferring old-growth or mature forests increased, but those living on mires and wetlands, and species of Arctic mountains decreased.

"These trends are most probably connected with , but successional changes in protected areas and regional habitat alteration should also be taken into account," says Dr Virkkala, the leading author of the study. Of species preferring old-growth or mature forests, a larger proportion are southern than among species of mires and wetlands, or of Arctic mountains, most or all of which, respectively, had a northerly distribution.

In general, northern species have decreased and southern species increased. It is suggested that climate change effects on species in natural boreal and Arctic habitats most probably are habitat-specific with large differences in response times and susceptibility. Open mires and mountain heaths change more rapidly in consequence of climate warming than old-growth forests, for which reason populations on mires and mountain heaths may also be more affected by climate change.

Explore further: A changing climate for protected areas

More information: Virkkala R, Rajasärkkä A (2012) Preserving species populations in the boreal zone in a changing climate: contrasting trends of bird species groups in a protected area network. Nature Conservation 3: 1. doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.3.3635

Related Stories

A changing climate for protected areas

April 2, 2007

On April 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a report entitled Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability that focuses on how climate change is affecting the planet.

Climate threatens birds, says new bird report

March 16, 2010

Climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril, according to a new report on the state of birds released March 11 by U.S. Secretary ...

Recommended for you

Winter season reverses outcome of fruit fly reproduction

November 24, 2015

Male fruit flies could find their chances of fathering offspring radically reduced if they are last in the queue to mate with promiscuous females before winter arrives, according to new University of Liverpool research.

New insight into leaf shape diversity

November 24, 2015

Many of us probably remember the punnett squares by which we were introduced to the idea of genetic inheritance in school: a dominant allele in each of my brown-eyed parents hides a recessive allele that explains my blue ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.