Atlantic Puffin Photo: Kevin Vande Vusse/Audubon Photography Awards

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Climate change disrupts interactions among species

Species interact with predators, parasites, competitors, and other species that they eat. Climate change is already disrupting these interactions, which affect abundance, quality of food supply, and timing of biological processes. Such effects have probably been more significant than the direct impacts of rising temperatures and other climatic shifts.

  • Case Study 1

    Arctic-breeding shorebirds are suffering from mismatches between the timing of breeding and food supply

    Increasing temperatures in the high Arctic are causing advances in the timing of breeding for some shorebirds such as Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), but not always in line with shifts in the peak availability of the insects that sandpiper chicks feed on. Chicks raised outside the period of peak food abundance grew significantly more slowly, which may have subsequent effects for chick survival and recruitment. Similar results have been found for some populations of European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) in the Netherlands.

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    Arctic-breeding shorebirds are suffering from mismatches between the timing of breeding and food supply

    Baird's Sandpiper Photo: Dominic Sherony

  • Case Study 2

    Hosts of the brood-parasitic Common Cuckoo are breeding earlier than the migratory cuckoos arrive

    As spring temperatures have increased since 1990, proportionately fewer nests of resident and short-distance migratory hosts are being parasitized by long-distance migratory Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) in Europe, as these hosts are breeding earlier than the cuckoos are arriving. This may explain cuckoo declines in some countries (although overall trends have been stable since the late 1990s, at least in western/central Europe).

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  • Case Study 3

    Higher temperatures have increased predation by Edible Dormice on woodland birds

    In the Czech Republic, higher temperatures have allowed populations of the Edible Dormouse (Glis glis) to increase, leading to increased predation of the nests of woodland birds such as Great Tit (Parus major) and Wood Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), although this does not yet appear to have impacted population trends.

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  • Case Study 4

    Climate-driven reductions in krill abundance have caused Adélie Penguin declines

    The abundance of krill (Euphausiacea), which dominates the foodweb of the Southern Ocean, is closely tied to the extent of sea ice. Warming around the Antarctic Peninsula has reduced the survival of juvenile Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) as a result, while the contraction of sea ice away from food-rich coastal upwellings has further limited their access to food resources. Coupled with an increase in spring blizzards causing breeding failure, climate change has caused significant population declines.

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