Climate change increases the likelihood of catastrophic avian mortality events during extreme heat waves

Biol Lett. 2010 Apr 23;6(2):253-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0702. Epub 2009 Sep 30.


Severe heat waves have occasionally led to catastrophic avian mortality in hot desert environments. Climate change models predict increases in the intensity, frequency and duration of heat waves. A model of avian evaporative water requirements and survival times during the hottest part of day reveals that the predicted increases in maximum air temperatures will result in large fractional increases in water requirements (in small birds, equivalent to 150-200 % of current values), which will severely reduce survival times during extremely hot weather. By the 2080s, desert birds will experience reduced survival times much more frequently during mid-summer, increasing the frequency of catastrophic mortality events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bird Diseases / mortality*
  • Birds
  • Body Size
  • Climate Change*
  • Dehydration / mortality
  • Dehydration / veterinary*
  • Desert Climate
  • Drinking / physiology
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology*