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The Annual Cycle of Long-Distance Migratory Birds in Relation to Climate Change

Koch, W. (2008) The Annual Cycle of Long-Distance Migratory Birds in Relation to Climate Change. Bachelor's Thesis, Biology.

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Long-distance migratory birds are extensively studied, and appear to be especially vulnerable to climate change due to their large ranges. This makes them potential sentinel species for the effects of climate change. In order to interpret observations regarding long-distance migrants, understanding their annual cycle is key. Here I will describe the role played by three important aspects of the annual cycle of long-distance migrants: wintering, migration and breeding. Evidence for the effects climate change may have on each of these stages will be examined. Wintering has been shown to be of crucial importance to the rest of the cycle, and can function as a survival bottleneck, especially if climate change tends to harshen conditions on wintering grounds. Adaptation via a shift in wintering location may be a solution, and has in various forms been observed in several species. Migration timing is an important and heavily debated area of research. Many observations have been made regarding the way birds can time the onset of migration and their ability to change timing through plasticity and/or selection. The importance of migration timing and the pace of current climate change leads me to believe that birds may be forced to change through every mechanism available to them, decreasing the predictive properties of our knowledge from responses to past events. Breeding, finally, is another crucial stage for population survival and selection. A strong recent decline in many long-distance migrants is an indication of the negative effects global climate change may have. Decreased synchrony with food peaks is one of the mechanisms at play. The effect of increased competitor levels is also looked into, and may interestingly enough provide migrants with the ability to breed earlier and more successfully. The need for earlier onset of breeding is often insufficiently followed by changed behavior, resulting in declining populations. Observing and understanding the annual cycle of long-distance migratory birds and the (cascading) effects of climate change is crucial, as it can provide us with clues to future trends over a much broader spectrum of species and ecosystems.

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's Thesis)
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Bachelor's Thesis
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 07:29
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 07:29

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