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Oecologia. 2009 Apr;159(4):859-72. doi: 10.1007/s00442-008-1267-8. Epub 2009 Jan 13.

Divergent patterns of impact of environmental conditions on life history traits in two populations of a long-distance migratory bird.

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  • 1Departamento de Anatomia, Biología Celular y Zoología, Universidad de Extremadura, 06071 Badajoz, Spain.


Some areas have experienced recent dramatic warming due to climate change, while others have shown no change at all, or even recent cooling. We predicted that patterns of selection on life history would differ between southern and northern European populations of a long-distance migratory bird, the barn swallow Hirundo rustica, because global patterns of weather as reflected by large-scale weather phenomena such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have different effects on environmental conditions in different parts of the world frequented during the annual cycle. We investigated relationships between mean arrival date, dispersal rate and yearling survival rate among years, using two long-term population studies in Spain and Denmark. We found evidence of a difference in the effects of normalized difference vegetation index in North and West Africa on mean arrival date of male barn swallows, with the effect differing significantly between populations. Second, there was a significant interaction between ENSO and population on dispersal rate, showing that conditions in Africa during winter differentially affected dispersal in the two populations. Finally, the NAO index in winter had an effect on yearling survival that differed between populations. These findings highlight the divergent patterns of response to climate change among populations, and they suggest that climate change can differentially affect important life history traits with potential implications for maintenance of viable populations and gene flow among populations.

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