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The role of thermal physiology in recent declines of birds in a biodiversity hotspot.
Conserv Physiol 2015; 3(1):cov048CP

Abstract

We investigated whether observed avian range contractions and population declines in the Fynbos biome of South Africa were mechanistically linked to recent climate warming. We aimed to determine whether there were correlations between preferred temperature envelope, or changes in temperature within species' ranges, and recent changes in range and population size, for 12 Fynbos-resident bird species, including six that are endemic to the biome. We then measured the physiological responses of each species at air temperatures ranging from 24 to 42°C to determine whether physiological thermal thresholds could provide a mechanistic explanation for observed population trends. Our data show that Fynbos-endemic species occupying the coolest regions experienced the greatest recent reductions in range and population size (>30% range reduction between 1991 and the present). In addition, species experiencing the largest increases in air temperature within their ranges showed the greatest declines. However, evidence for a physiological mechanistic link between warming and population declines was equivocal, with only the larger species showing low thermal thresholds for their body mass, compared with other birds globally. In addition, some species appear more vulnerable than others to air temperatures in their ranges above physiological thermal thresholds. Of these, the high-altitude specialist Cape rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus) seems most at risk from climate warming. This species showed: (i) the lowest threshold for increasing evaporative water loss at high temperatures; and (ii) population declines specifically in those regions of its range recording significant warming trends. Our findings suggest that caution must be taken when attributing causality explicitly to thermal stress, even when population trends are clearly correlated with rates of warming. Studies explicitly investigating the mechanisms underlying such correlations will be key to appropriate conservation planning.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa; Birds and Environmental Change Programme, Climate Change and Adaptation Division, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Claremont 7735, South Africa.Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

27293732

Citation

Milne, Robyn, et al. "The Role of Thermal Physiology in Recent Declines of Birds in a Biodiversity Hotspot." Conservation Physiology, vol. 3, no. 1, 2015, pp. cov048.
Milne R, Cunningham SJ, Lee AT, et al. The role of thermal physiology in recent declines of birds in a biodiversity hotspot. Conserv Physiol. 2015;3(1):cov048.
Milne, R., Cunningham, S. J., Lee, A. T., & Smit, B. (2015). The role of thermal physiology in recent declines of birds in a biodiversity hotspot. Conservation Physiology, 3(1), pp. cov048. doi:10.1093/conphys/cov048.
Milne R, et al. The Role of Thermal Physiology in Recent Declines of Birds in a Biodiversity Hotspot. Conserv Physiol. 2015;3(1):cov048. PubMed PMID: 27293732.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - The role of thermal physiology in recent declines of birds in a biodiversity hotspot. AU - Milne,Robyn, AU - Cunningham,Susan J, AU - Lee,Alan T K, AU - Smit,Ben, Y1 - 2015/11/13/ PY - 2015/02/03/received PY - 2015/09/26/revised PY - 2015/10/01/accepted PY - 2016/6/14/entrez PY - 2015/1/1/pubmed PY - 2015/1/1/medline KW - Bioclimatic envelope models KW - Fynbos KW - climate change KW - endemism KW - evaporative water loss KW - heat tolerance SP - cov048 EP - cov048 JF - Conservation physiology JO - Conserv Physiol VL - 3 IS - 1 N2 - We investigated whether observed avian range contractions and population declines in the Fynbos biome of South Africa were mechanistically linked to recent climate warming. We aimed to determine whether there were correlations between preferred temperature envelope, or changes in temperature within species' ranges, and recent changes in range and population size, for 12 Fynbos-resident bird species, including six that are endemic to the biome. We then measured the physiological responses of each species at air temperatures ranging from 24 to 42°C to determine whether physiological thermal thresholds could provide a mechanistic explanation for observed population trends. Our data show that Fynbos-endemic species occupying the coolest regions experienced the greatest recent reductions in range and population size (>30% range reduction between 1991 and the present). In addition, species experiencing the largest increases in air temperature within their ranges showed the greatest declines. However, evidence for a physiological mechanistic link between warming and population declines was equivocal, with only the larger species showing low thermal thresholds for their body mass, compared with other birds globally. In addition, some species appear more vulnerable than others to air temperatures in their ranges above physiological thermal thresholds. Of these, the high-altitude specialist Cape rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus) seems most at risk from climate warming. This species showed: (i) the lowest threshold for increasing evaporative water loss at high temperatures; and (ii) population declines specifically in those regions of its range recording significant warming trends. Our findings suggest that caution must be taken when attributing causality explicitly to thermal stress, even when population trends are clearly correlated with rates of warming. Studies explicitly investigating the mechanisms underlying such correlations will be key to appropriate conservation planning. SN - 2051-1434 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/27293732/The_role_of_thermal_physiology_in_recent_declines_of_birds_in_a_biodiversity_hotspot_ L2 - https://academic.oup.com/conphys/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/conphys/cov048 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -