Modeling direct and indirect climate change impacts on ecological networks: a case study on breeding habitat of Dutch meadow birds
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Climate change can directly affect habitats within ecological networks, but may also have indirect effects on network quality by inducing land use change. The relative impact of indirect effects of climate change on the quality of ecological networks currently remains largely unknown.
The objective of this study was to determine the relative impact of direct and indirect effects of climate change on a network of breeding habitat of four meadow bird species (Black-tailed godwit, Common redshank, Eurasian oystercatcher and Northern lapwing) in the Netherlands.
Habitat models were developed that link meadow bird breeding densities to three habitat characteristics that are sensitive to environmental change (landscape openness, land use and groundwater level). These models were used to assess the impact of scenarios of landscape change with and without climate change on meadow bird breeding habitat quality for a case study area in the peat meadow district of the Netherlands.
All scenarios led to significantly reduced habitat quality for all species, mainly as a result of conversion of grassland to bioenergy crops, which reduces landscape openness. Direct effects of climate change on habitat quality were largely absent, indicating that especially human adaptation to climate change rather than direct effects of climate change was decisive for the degradation of ecological network quality for breeding meadow birds.
We conclude that scenario studies exploring impacts of climate change on ecological networks should incorporate both land use change resulting from human responses to climate change and direct effects of climate change on landscapes.
KeywordsBlack-tailed godwit Common redshank Eurasian oystercatcher Northern lapwing Bioenergy crops Land use change
JvD was financially supported by the Climate Adaptation for Rural Areas (CARE) Project, which was funded by the Knowledge for Climate Programme (http://knowledgeforclimate.climateresearchnetherlands.nl/climateadaptationforruralareas). SOVON Vogelonderzoek Nederland provided the Dutch relative bird density datasets. Harry Dijkstra, Jetty van Lith-Kranendonk and Jaco van der Gaast (all Alterra Wageningen) provided the openness and groundwater datasets. Mara Baudena kindly assisted with programming the reclassification of the openness maps. Paul Opdam gave very useful suggestions for the presentation of the manuscript.
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