Shifts in caterpillar biomass phenology due to climate change and its impact on the breeding biology of an insectivorous bird. Oecologia

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), P.O. Box 40, 6666 ZG, Heteren, The Netherlands.
Oecologia (Impact Factor: 3.25). 03/2006; 147(1):164-72. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-005-0299-6
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Timing of reproduction has major fitness consequences, which can only be understood when the phenology of the food for the offspring is quantified. For insectivorous birds, like great tits (Parus major), synchronisation of their offspring needs and abundance of caterpillars is the main selection pressure. We measured caterpillar biomass over a 20-year period and showed that the annual peak date is correlated with temperatures from 8 March to 17 May. Laying dates also correlate with temperatures, but over an earlier period (16 March-20 April). However, as we would predict from a reliable cue used by birds to time their reproduction, also the food peak correlates with these temperatures. Moreover, the slopes of the phenology of the birds and caterpillar biomass, when regressed against the temperatures in this earlier period, do not differ. The major difference is that due to climate change, the relationship between the timing of the food peak and the temperatures over the 16 March-20 April period is changing, while this is not so for great tit laying dates. As a consequence, the synchrony between offspring needs and the caterpillar biomass has been disrupted in the recent warm decades. This may have severe consequences as we show that both the number of fledglings as well as their fledging weight is affected by this synchrony. We use the descriptive models for both the caterpillar biomass peak as for the great tit laying dates to predict shifts in caterpillar and bird phenology 2005-2100, using an IPCC climate scenario. The birds will start breeding earlier and this advancement is predicted to be at the same rate as the advancement of the food peak, and hence they will not reduce the amount of the current mistiming of about 10 days.

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Available from: Marcel E Visser, Nov 27, 2014
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    • "Therefore, under increased temperatures, range expansion of residents would be more likely to occur. Other components of migrant life history may place additional pressures on these species with climate change, such as mismatches in migratory timing, e.g. with food supplies (Visser et al. 2006), and increased variability of weather events during migration (Hedenström et al. 2007). "
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    • "This in turn partly depends on the phenology of trees, which is largely determined by spring temperature. Having estimates of the mean temperature over a critical time window known to influence the food peak (Visser et al., 2006), we changed the model to include this as a covariate x t instead of a linear trend in the optimum, but still allowing for random fluctuations beyond those caused by spring temperature. This improved the model, causing DIC to decrease by 4.21 for models with AR1 residual variance (model 7 vs. 2). "
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    • "Previous work, at the population scale, has shown that bud-burst date of deciduous trees is largely determined by winter chilling followed by warming in spring (Hunter and Lechowicz 1992) but that year-to-year variation in mean bud burst of pedunculate oaks can vary by up to 3 weeks (Crawley and Akhteruzzaman 1988; van Dongen et al. 1997). Both average caterpillar phenology and mean first egg date of tits can be accurately predicted by measures of early spring warmth, resulting in a degree of phenological matching between tits, their caterpillar prey, and oaks at the population level across years (Visser et al. 2006; Charmantier et al. 2008). However, to date, most studies that have investigated the degree of matching in phenology across these three trophic levels do so at the population level (but see Nager and van Noordwijk 1995). "
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