Simulation-based reconstruction of global bird migration over the past 50,000 years

Authors: Marius Somveille, Martin Wikelski, Robert M. Beyer, Ana S.L. Rodrigues, Andrea Manica & Walter Jetz

Year: 2020

Publication: Nature Communications

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Abstract: Migration is a widespread response of birds to seasonally varying climates. As seasonality is particularly pronounced during interglacial periods, this raises the question of the significance of bird migration during past periods with different patterns of seasonality. Here, we apply a mechanistic model to climate reconstructions to simulate the past 50,000 years of bird migration worldwide, a period encompassing the transition between the last glacial period and the current interglacial. Our results indicate that bird migration was also a prevalent phenomenon during the last ice age, almost as much as today, suggesting that it has been continually important throughout the glacial cycles of recent Earth history. We find however regional variations, with increasing migratory activity in the Americas, which is not mirrored in the Old World. These results highlight the strong flexibility of the global bird migration system and offer a baseline in the context of on-going anthropogenic climate change.

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