skip to main content


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
Abstract

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.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10042224
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Volume:
24
Issue:
3
ISSN:
1354-1013
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1212-1223
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Together climate and land‐use change play a crucial role in determining species distribution and abundance, but measuring the simultaneous impacts of these processes on current and future population trajectories is challenging due to time lags, interactive effects and data limitations. Most approaches that relate multiple global change drivers to population changes have been based on occurrence or count data alone.

    We leveraged three long‐term (1995–2019) datasets to develop a coupled integrated population model‐Bayesian population viability analysis (IPM‐BPVA) to project future survival and reproductive success for common loonsGavia immerin northern Wisconsin, USA, by explicitly linking vital rates to changes in climate and land use.

    The winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a broad‐scale climate index, immediately preceding the breeding season and annual changes in developed land cover within breeding areas both had strongly negative influences on adult survival. Local summer rainfall was negatively related to fecundity, though this relationship was mediated by a lagged interaction with the winter NAO, suggesting a compensatory population‐level response to climate variability.

    We compared population viability under 12 future scenarios of annual land‐use change, precipitation and NAO conditions. Under all scenarios, the loon population was expected to decline, yet the steepest declines were projected under positive NAO trends, as anticipated with ongoing climate change. Thus, loons breeding in the northern United States are likely to remain affected by climatic processes occurring thousands of miles away in the North Atlantic during the non‐breeding period of the annual cycle.

    Our results reveal that climate and land‐use changes are differentially contributing to loon population declines along the southern edge of their breeding range and will continue to do so despite natural compensatory responses. We also demonstrate that concurrent analysis of multiple data types facilitates deeper understanding of the ecological implications of anthropogenic‐induced change occurring at multiple spatial scales. Our modelling approach can be used to project demographic responses of populations to varying environmental conditions while accounting for multiple sources of uncertainty, an increasingly pressing need in the face of unprecedented global change.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Evolutionary and behavioural ecologists have long been interested in factors shaping the variation in mating behaviour observed in nature. Although much of the research on this topic has focused on the consequences of mate choice and mate change on annual reproductive success, studies of a potential positive link between mate fidelity and adult demographic rates have been comparatively rare. This is particularly true for long‐lived birds with multi‐year, socially monogamous pair bonds.

    We used a 26‐year capture–mark–recapture dataset of 3,330 black brentBranta bernicla nigricansto test whether breeding with a familiar mate improved future breeding propensity and survival. We predicted that experienced breeders nesting with a new partner would have rates of survival similar to familiar pairs because long‐lived species avoid jeopardizing survival since their lifetime fitness is sensitive to this vital rate. In contrast, we expected that any costs of breeding with a new partner would be paid through skipping the subsequent breeding attempt.

    We found that unfamiliar pairs had lower subsequent breeding propensity than faithful partners. However, contrary to our expectations, individuals breeding with a new mate also suffered reduced survival.

    These results add to a small number of studies indicating that a positive relationship between mate retention and adult demographic rates may exist in a diverse array of avian species. Given these results, researchers should consider costs of mate change that extend beyond within‐season reproductive success to fully understand the potential adaptive basis for perennial social monogamy. We caution that if mate retention enhances survival prospects, improvements in annual reproductive success with pair‐bond length could be a secondary factor favouring perennial social monogamy, particularly in species with slower life‐history strategies. Furthermore, some cases where annual reproductive success does not improve with pair‐bond duration, yet multi‐year pair bonds are common, could be explained by benefits afforded by mate fidelity to adult vital rates.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Juvenile survival to first breeding is a key life‐history stage for all taxa. Survival through this period can be particularly challenging when it coincides with harsh environmental conditions such as a winter climate or food scarcity, leading to highly variable cohort survival. However, the small size and dispersive nature of juveniles generally make studying their survival more difficult.

    In territorial species, a key life‐history event is the acquisition of a territory. A territory is expected to enhance survival, but how it does so is not often identified. We tested how the timing of territory acquisition influenced the winter survival of juvenile North American red squirrelsTamiasciurus hudsonicus, hereafter red squirrels, and how the timing of this event mediated the sources of mortality. We hypothesized that securing a territory prior to when food resources become available would reduce juvenile susceptibility to predation and climatic factors overwinter.

    Using 27 years of data on the survival of individually marked juvenile red squirrels, we tested how the timing of territory acquisition influenced survival, whether the population density of red squirrel predators and mean temperature overwinter were related to individual survival probability, and if territory ownership mediated these effects.

    Juvenile red squirrel survival was lower in the years of high predator abundance and in colder winters. Autumn territory owners were less susceptible to lynxLynx canadensisand possibly mustelidMustelaandMartesspp., predation. Autumn territory owners had lower survival in colder winters, but surprisingly non‐owners had higher survival in cold winters.

    Our results show how the timing of a life‐history event like territory acquisition can directly affect survival and also mediate the effects of biotic and abiotic factors later in life. This engenders a better understanding of the fitness consequences of the timing of key life‐history events.

     
    more » « less
  4. Precise timing of life‐history transitions in predictably changing environments is hypothesized to aid in individual survival and reproductive success, by appropriately matching an animal's physiology and behavior with prevailing environmental conditions. Therefore, it is imperative for individuals to time energetically costly life‐history stages (i.e. reproduction) so they overlap with seasonal peaks in food abundance and quality. Female lifetime reproductive fitness is affected by several factors that influence energy balance, including arrival date, timing of egg production, and energetic condition. Therefore, any extra energetic costs during reproduction may negatively affect timing of egg production, and ultimately a female's fitness. For example, mounting an immunological response elicits a high energetic cost, and this transfer of resources towards cell and immune system maintenance could have direct negative effects on reproductive timing. In order to determine whether an immune challenge delays onset of breeding (i.e. egg production), we administered either a humoral immune challenge (keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH)) (treatment) or physiological saline (control) to free‐living female dark‐eyed juncosJunco hyemalisin the period immediately prior to egg‐laying (∼4 weeks). We found that KLH‐injected females artificially delayed clutch initiation when compared to control females. These data help to refine our understanding of how free‐living birds allocate resources between reproduction and self‐maintenance processes during the critical pre‐laying period of the annual cycle.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Climate variation has been linked to historical and predicted future distributions and dynamics of wildlife populations. However, demographic mechanisms underlying these changes remain poorly understood. Here, we assessed variation and trends in climate (annual snowfall and spring temperature anomalies) and avian demographic variables from mist‐netting data (breeding phenology and productivity) at six sites along an elevation gradient spanning the montane zone of Yosemite National Park between 1993 and 2017. We implemented multi‐species hierarchical models to relate demographic responses to elevation and climate covariates. Annual variation in climate and avian demographic variables was high. Snowfall declined (10 mm/year at the highest site, 2 mm at the lowest site), while spring temperature increased (0.045°C/year) over the study period. Breeding phenology (mean first capture date of juvenile birds) advanced by 0.2 day/year (5 days); and productivity (probability of capturing a juvenile bird) increased by 0.8%/year. Breeding phenology was 12 days earlier at the lowest compared to highest site, 18 days earlier in years with lowest compared to highest snowfall anomalies, and 6 d earlier in relatively warm springs (after controlling for snowfall effects). Productivity was positively related to elevation. However, elevation–productivity responses varied among species; species with higher productivity at higher compared to lower elevations tended to be species with documented range retractions during the past century. Productivity tended to be negatively related to snowfall and was positively related to spring temperature. Overall, our results suggest that birds have tracked the variable climatic conditions in this system and have benefited from a trend toward warmer, drier springs. However, we caution that continued warming and multi‐year drought or extreme weather years may alter these relationships in the future. Multi‐species demographic modeling, such as implemented here, can provide an important tool for guiding conservation of species assemblages under global change.

     
    more » « less