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. 2018 Feb 28;285(1873):20172329.
doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2329.

Flight Range, Fuel Load and the Impact of Climate Change on the Journeys of Migrant Birds

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Free PMC article

Flight Range, Fuel Load and the Impact of Climate Change on the Journeys of Migrant Birds

Christine Howard et al. Proc Biol Sci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Climate change is predicted to increase migration distances for many migratory species, but the physiological and temporal implications of longer migratory journeys have not been explored. Here, we combine information about species' flight range potential and migratory refuelling requirements to simulate the number of stopovers required and the duration of current migratory journeys for 77 bird species breeding in Europe. Using tracking data, we show that our estimates accord with recorded journey times and stopovers for most species. We then combine projections of altered migratory distances under climate change with models of avian flight to predict future migratory journeys. We find that 37% of migratory journeys undertaken by long-distance migrants will necessitate an additional stopover in future. These greater distances and the increased number of stops will substantially increase overall journey durations of many long-distance migratory species, a factor not currently considered in climate impact studies.

Keywords: Afro-Palaearctic migrants; climate change; distance; duration; migration; stopovers.

Conflict of interest statement

We have no competing interests.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Shifts in the the distance and direction between 2000 and projected 2070 breeding and non-breeding ranges for (a) short-distance migrants and (b) long-distance migrants. Each line represents a single species. The centre of each polar plot represents the centre of the current (2000) range for each species, taken as the mean of 1000 randomly selected points from the median projection to contemporary climate data. Lines show distance to the centre of the future (2070) range, calculated by taking the mean of 1000 randomly selected points (weighted by probability of occurrence) from the median projection for each of the 12 climate scenarios (3 GCMs × 4 RCPs). Shaded areas represent the standard deviation around the mean range centre from across the 12 different climate scenarios.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
(a) Predicted 2000 and 2070 migration distances for 77 European migratory bird species. Mean migration distance is calculated as the mean distance between 1000 randomly sampled points on the breeding and non-breeding grounds. Current distributions are taken as the median probability of occurrence for each grid cell from across 40 predictions (4 SDMs × 10 jackknife iterations) using contemporary (2000) climate data. Future distributions are taken as the median probability of occurrence for each grid cell across all 40 predictions for 12 climate scenarios (3 GCMs × 4RCPs) for 2070. Error bars show the standard deviation around the mean of the 1000 migration distances. The grey line indicates the 1 : 1 line. (b) Boxplot showing the percentage change in the mean migration distance between 2000 and 2070 for 40 species of short-distance migrants and 37 species of long-distance migrants.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
(a) Estimated number of required stopovers based on the mean migration distance for 2000 and 2070 projections. Data are shown for 40 species of short-distance migrants (yellow lines) and 37 species of long-distance migrants (blue lines). (b) Number of 2000 and 2070 sampled journeys requiring a specific number of stopovers. Data are presented for 37 species of long-distance migrants.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Estimated spring migration routes based on 1000 randomly sampled migratory journeys for (a,b) F. albicollis and (c,d) S. nisoria based on the median (a,c) 2000 and (b,d) 2070 occurrence projections. The width of the shaded bars indicates the central 90% of 1000 randomly sampled migration journeys at any given longitude. Colours indicate the mean journey stage of migrant birds passing through a grid cell calculated using both pre-migration and post-stopover maximum flight range distances, with migration starting from the non-breeding range. Dark grey shaded areas indicate breeding and non-breeding ranges.
Figure 5.
Figure 5.
(a) Predicted 2000 and 2070 migration duration for 77 European migratory bird species. Mean migration duration is the time taken to migrate the mean migration distance, including time for stopovers. Error bars show the standard deviation around the mean time taken to travel 1000 sampled migration distances. The grey line indicates the 1:1 line. (b) Boxplot showing the percentage change in the mean migration duration between 2000 and 2070 for 40 species of short-distance migrants and 37 species of long-distance migrants.

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