Phenology of nocturnal avian migration has shifted at the continental scale

Authors: Kyle G. Horton, Frank A. La Sorte, Daniel Sheldon, Tsung-Yu Lin, Kevin Winner, Garrett Bernstein, Subhransu Maji, Wesley M. Hochachka, Andrew Farnsworth

Year: 2020

Publication: Nature Climate Change

Publication Link:

Abstract: Climate change induced phenological shifts in primary productivity result in trophic mismatches for many organisms, with broad implications for ecosystem structure and function. For birds that have a synchronized timing of migration with resource availability, the likelihood that trophic mismatches may generate a phenological response in migration timing increases with climate change. Despite the importance of a holistic understanding of such systems at large spatial and temporal scales, particularly given a rapidly changing climate, analyses are few, primarily because of limitations in the access to appropriate data. Here we use 24 years of remotely sensed data collected by weather surveillance radar to quantify the response of a nocturnal avian migration system within the contiguous United States to changes in temperature. The average peak migration timing advanced in spring and autumn, and these changes were generally more rapid at higher latitudes. During spring and autumn, warmer seasons were predictive of earlier peak migration dates. Decadal changes in surface temperatures predicted spring changes in migratory timing, with greater warming related to earlier arrivals. This study represents one of the first system-wide examinations during two seasons and comprises measures from hundreds of species that describe migratory timing across a continent. Our findings provide evidence of spatially dynamic phenological shifts that result from climate change.

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