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Title: Individual fitness and the effects of a changing climate on the cessation and length of the breeding period using a 34‐year study of a temperate songbird

Studies of the phenological responses of animals to climate change typically emphasize the initiation of breeding although climatic effects on the cessation and length of the breeding period may be as or more influential of fitness. We quantified links between climate, the cessation and length of the breeding period, and individual survival and reproduction using a 34‐year study of a resident song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) population subject to dramatic variation in climate. We show that the cessation and length of the breeding period varied strongly across years, and predicted female annual fecundity but not survival. Breeding period length was more influential of fecundity than initiation or cessation of breeding alone. Warmer annual temperature and drier winters and summers predicted an earlier cessation of breeding. Population density, the date breeding was initiated, a female's history of breeding success, and the number of breeding attempts initiated previously also predicted the cessation of breeding annually, indicating that climatic, population, and individual factors may interact to affect breeding phenology. Linking climate projections to our model results suggests that females will both initiate and cease breeding earlier in the future; this will have opposite effects on individual reproductive rate because breeding earlier is expected to increase fecundity, whereas ceasing breeding earlier should reduce it. Identifying factors affecting the cessation and length of the breeding period in multiparous species may be essential to predicting individual fitness and population demography. Given a rich history of studies on the initiation of breeding in free‐living species, re‐visiting those data to estimate climatic effects on the cessation and length of breeding should improve our ability to predict the impacts of climate change on multiparous species.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1212-1223
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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