More than mortality: Consequences of human activity on migrating birds extend beyond direct mortality

Authors: Claire E. Nemes, Sergio A. Cabrera-Cruz, Meredith J. Anderson, Lucas W. DeGroote, Joely G. DeSimone, Megan L. Massa, and Emily B. Cohen

Year: 2023

Publication: Ornithological Applications

Publication Link:

Keywords: anthropogenic mortality, anthropogenic stressors, anthropogenic threats, avian conservation, bird migration, demographic impacts, fitness costs, indirect effects, nonlethal effects

Abstract: Birds must contend with an array of anthropogenic threats during their migratory journeys. Many migrants are killed due to encounters with
artificial light, introduced species, pollutants, and other anthropogenic hazards, while survivors of these encounters can suffer longer-lasting
negative effects. The nonlethal effects of anthropogenic threats on migrating birds are less well understood than direct mortality, yet both potentially
contribute to population declines. For example, building collisions frequently kill migrating birds, but the numbers of migrants that survive
with an impaired ability to fly, refuel, or navigate to their destination on time is not well understood. Though not immediately fatal, such injuries
can lead to delayed mortality and, ultimately, reduced lifetime reproductive success. Furthermore, migrants are likely to encounter multiple
threats on their journeys, which can interact synergistically to further reduce fitness. For instance, light pollution attracts and disorients migrants,
increasing the likelihood of window strikes, and surviving birds may be more vulnerable to predation from introduced predators. While considerable
attention has focused on the lethal effects of anthropogenic threats, here, we review nonlethal effects of eight types of threats during
migration, their interactions, and the pathways through which they can exert fitness costs. In doing so, we identify knowledge gaps and suggest
areas for future research. In the absence of more information, we propose that the greatest reduction in the cumulative lethal and nonlethal
impacts of anthropogenic hazards will be achieved by addressing threat types, like artificial light at night, that interact with and compound the
impact of additional threats. Direct mortality from anthropogenic sources is recognized as a key driver of population declines, but a full understanding
of the impacts of human activity on migrating birds must include the cumulative and interacting effects that extend beyond immediate
mortality en route to influence overall migration success and lifetime fitness.

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