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Ecology. 2010 Apr;91(4):1192-204.

Effects of climate change and variability on population dynamics in a long-lived shorebird.

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  • 1Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway. m.van.de.pol@myscience.eu

Abstract

Climate change affects both the mean and variability of climatic variables, but their relative impact on the dynamics of populations is still largely unexplored. Based on a long-term study of the demography of a declining Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) population, we quantify the effect of changes in mean and variance of winter temperature on different vital rates across the life cycle. Subsequently, we quantify, using stochastic stage-structured models, how changes in the mean and variance of this environmental variable affect important characteristics of the future population dynamics, such as the time to extinction. Local mean winter temperature is predicted to strongly increase, and we show that this is likely to increase the population's persistence time via its positive effects on adult survival that outweigh the negative effects that higher temperatures have on fecundity. Interannual variation in winter temperature is predicted to decrease, which is also likely to increase persistence time via its positive effects on adult survival that outweigh the negative effects that lower temperature variability has on fecundity. Overall, a 0.1 degrees C change in mean temperature is predicted to alter median time to extinction by 1.5 times as many years as would a 0.1 degrees C change in the standard deviation in temperature, suggesting that the dynamics of oystercatchers are more sensitive to changes in the mean than in the interannual variability of this climatic variable. Moreover, as climate models predict larger changes in the mean than in the standard deviation of local winter temperature, the effects of future climatic variability on this population's time to extinction are expected to be overwhelmed by the effects of changes in climatic means. We discuss the mechanisms by which climatic variability can either increase or decrease population viability and how this might depend both on species' life histories and on the vital rates affected. This study illustrates that, for making reliable inferences about population consequences in species in which life history changes with age or stage, it is crucial to investigate the impact of climate change on vital rates across the entire life cycle. Disturbingly, such data are unavailable for most species of conservation concern.

PMID:
20462133
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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