More diverse avian communities have a better chance against climate change

More diverse avian communities have a better chance against climate change

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent in bird species across both Europe and North America, as changes to seasonal patterns have caused a depletion of food sources and other alterations to habitats.

However, research has shown that bird communities with a greater diversity of species and behaviours have been more resilient to the effects of climate change over the past fifty years, in comparison to avian communities with fewer species and less varied behaviours.

This conclusion was reached upon examining the changes in bird community composition and diversity across North America over the past five decades.

The results of this study were clear: bird communities with a higher species richness and a more comprehensive range of behaviours have experienced less drastic changes due to climate change.

“For example, if a community contained birds of prey, insectivores, and seed-eaters rather than birds from just one feeding guild, it was better safeguarded against the negative impacts of climate change,” explains Emma-Liina Marjakangas, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who lead the research.

The reason for this is that species diversity “works as a buffer against negative climate change impacts, especially during winter; i.e the season that has shown strongest climatic warming across the Northern Hemisphere,” the scientists note.

During the breeding season, they add, biodiversity played a smaller role, likely because bird communities change faster during winter than summer. This difference between winter and summer will probably widen as climate change speeds up, the experts say.

“Importantly, our results suggest that functionally diverse wildlife communities can mitigate effects of climate change by hindering changes in thermal niche variability, which underscores the importance of addressing the climate and biodiversity crises together,” the experts write.

Functionally diverse bird communities help maintain ecosystems by dispersing plant seeds, controlling insect populations and even pollinating flowering plants.

“Climate change reshuffles the composition of these important bird communities and therefore threatens their ability to provide ecosystem services,” the scientists point out.

“Habitat and available food determine a species’ flexibility for changing its breeding and wintering areas,” says Aleksi Lehikoinen, an expert at the University of Helsinki.

“For example,” Lehikoinen adds, “grassland species have shifted their distributions northwards slower than forest passerines, such as the American robin, or habitat generalists, such as the mourning dove.”

A key takeaway from the study, its authors stress, is that the biodiversity and climate crises will need to be “mitigated simultaneously to avoid multiplicative effects.”

Climate change is having a significant impact on bird species across Europe and North America, as changes to seasonal patterns are causing a depletion of food sources and other alterations to habitats.

However, research has found that bird communities with a greater diversity of species and behaviours have been more resilient to these effects over the past fifty years.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki has shown that species diversity acts as a buffer against negative climate change impacts, especially during winter.

The study also found that functionally diverse bird communities play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems by dispersing plant seeds, controlling insect populations, and even pollinating flowering plants.

The key takeaway from this study is that the biodiversity and climate crises must be mitigated simultaneously to avoid multiplicative effects. For more information on this topic, please visit our post: The Power Of Diversity: Why Diverse Avian Communities Are Key To Climate Change Survival.