Broad-scale seasonal climate tracking is a consequence, not a driver, of avian migratory connectivity

Authors: Marius Somveille, Christen Bossu, Matthew DeSaix, and Kristen Ruegg

Year: 2023

Publication: Authorea

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Abstract: Tracking climatic conditions throughout the year is often assumed to be an adaptive behavior underlying seasonal migration patterns in animal populations. In this study, we investigate this hypothesis using genetic markers data to map migratory connectivity for 22 genetically distinct bird populations across 6 species. We found that the variation in seasonal climate tracking at a continental scale is more likely a consequence, rather than an underlying driver, of migratory connectivity, which is itself largely shaped by energy efficiency — i.e. optimizing the balance between accessing available resources and the cost of movement. However, our results also suggest that regional-scale seasonal precipitation tracking affects migration destinations, thus revealing a potential scale-dependency of ecological processes driving migration. Our results have implications for the conservation of migratory species under climate change, as populations that track climate seasonally are potentially at higher risk if they adapt to a narrow range of climatic conditions.

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