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Detecting mismatches of bird migration stopover and tree phenology in response to changing climate

Abstract

Migratory birds exploit seasonal variation in resources across latitudes, timing migration to coincide with the phenology of food at stopover sites. Differential responses to climate in phenology across trophic levels can result in phenological mismatch; however, detecting mismatch is sensitive to methodology. We examined patterns of migrant abundance and tree flowering, phenological mismatch, and the influence of climate during spring migration from 2009 to 2011 across five habitat types of the Madrean Sky Islands in southeastern Arizona, USA. We used two metrics to assess phenological mismatch: synchrony and overlap. We also examined whether phenological overlap declined with increasing difference in mean event date of phenophases. Migrant abundance and tree flowering generally increased with minimum spring temperature but depended on annual climate by habitat interactions. Migrant abundance was lowest and flowering was highest under cold, snowy conditions in high elevation montane conifer habitat while bird abundance was greatest and flowering was lowest in low elevation riparian habitat under the driest conditions. Phenological synchrony and overlap were unique and complementary metrics and should both be used when assessing mismatch. Overlap declined due to asynchronous phenologies but also due to reduced migrant abundance or flowering when synchrony was actually maintained. Overlap declined with increasing difference in event date and this trend was strongest in riparian areas. Montane habitat specialists may be at greatest risk of mismatch while riparian habitat could provide refugia during dry years for phenotypically plastic species. Interannual climate patterns that we observed match climate change projections for the arid southwest, altering stopover habitat condition.

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Acknowledgments

Support came from the Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, USGS-SBSC-Sonoran Desert Research Station, and the University of Arizona. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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Correspondence to Jherime L. Kellermann.

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Communicated by Scott McWilliams.

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Kellermann, J.L., van Riper, C. Detecting mismatches of bird migration stopover and tree phenology in response to changing climate. Oecologia 178, 1227–1238 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3293-7

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Keywords

  • Aridlands
  • Flowering
  • Gradients
  • Madrean
  • Stopover habitat
  • Climate change