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Birds on the move in the face of climate change: High species turnover in northern Europe

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Abstract

Species richness is predicted to increase in the northern latitudes in the warming climate due to ranges of many southern species expanding northwards. We studied changes in the composition of the whole avifauna and in bird species richness in a period of already warming climate in Finland (in northern Europe) covering 1,100 km in south–north gradient across the boreal zone (over 300,000 km2). We compared bird species richness and species-specific changes (for all 235 bird species that occur in Finland) in range size (number of squares occupied) and range shifts (measured as median of area of occupancy) based on bird atlas studies between 1974–1989 and 2006–2010. In addition, we tested how the habitat preference and migration strategy of species explain species-specific variation in the change of the range size. The study was carried out in 10 km squares with similar research intensity in both time periods. The species richness did not change significantly between the two time periods. The composition of the bird fauna, however, changed considerably with 37.0% of species showing an increase and 34.9% a decrease in the numbers of occupied squares, that is, about equal number of species gained and lost their range. Altogether 95.7% of all species (225/235) showed changes either in the numbers of occupied squares or they experienced a range shift (or both). The range size of archipelago birds increased and long-distance migrants declined significantly. Range loss observed in long-distance migrants is in line with the observed population declines of long-distance migrants in the whole Europe. The results show that there is an ongoing considerable species turnover due to climate change and due to land use and other direct human influence. High bird species turnover observed in northern Europe may also affect the functional diversity of species communities.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.3328/abstract;jsessionid=B756BB54C4237AA31CDA1032A339D26E.f04t04 (open access)

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