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J Anim Ecol. 2015 Sep;84(5):1164-76. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12381. Epub 2015 May 29.

When Siberia came to the Netherlands: the response of continental black-tailed godwits to a rare spring weather event.

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Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, Groningen, 9700 CC, The Netherlands.
Conservation Biology Research Group, Department of Anatomy Cell Biology and Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Extremadura, Avenida de Elvas, Badajoz, 06071, Spain.
Department of Marine Ecology, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, P.O. Box 59, Den Burg, Texel, 1790 AB, The Netherlands.
U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, AK, 99508, USA.


1. Extreme weather events have the potential to alter both short- and long-term population dynamics as well as community- and ecosystem-level function. Such events are rare and stochastic, making it difficult to fully document how organisms respond to them and predict the repercussions of similar events in the future. 2. To improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which short-term events can incur long-term consequences, we documented the behavioural responses and fitness consequences for a long-distance migratory bird, the continental black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa limosa, resulting from a spring snowstorm and three-week period of record low temperatures. 3. The event caused measurable responses at three spatial scales - continental, regional and local - including migratory delays (+19 days), reverse migrations (>90 km), elevated metabolic costs (+8·8% maintenance metabolic rate) and increased foraging rates (+37%). 4. There were few long-term fitness consequences, however, and subsequent breeding seasons instead witnessed high levels of reproductive success and little evidence of carry-over effects. 5. This suggests that populations with continued access to food, behavioural flexibility and time to dissipate the costs of the event can likely withstand the consequences of an extreme weather event. For populations constrained in one of these respects, though, extreme events may entail extreme ecological consequences.


behavioural flexibility; carry-over effects; migration; resource availability; stress response

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