Full Annual Cycle Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment For Migratory Birds of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region
Climate change is a serious challenge faced by all plant and animal species. Climate change vulnerability assessments (CCVAs) are one method to assess risk and are increasingly used as a tool to inform management plans. Migratory animals move across regions and continents during their annual cycles where they are exposed to diverse climatic conditions. Climate change during any period and in any region of the annual cycle could influence survival, reproduction, or the cues used to optimize timing of migration. Therefore, CCVAs for migratory animals best estimate risk when they include climate exposure during the entire annual cycle.
We developed a CCVA incorporating the full annual cycle and applied this method to 46 species of migratory birds breeding in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes (UMGL) region of the United States. Our methodology included background risk, climate change exposure × climate sensitivity, adaptive capacity to climate change, and indirect effects of climate change. We compiled information about migratory connectivity between breeding and stationary non-breeding areas using literature searches and U.S. Geological Survey banding and re-encounter data. Climate change exposure (temperature and moisture) was assessed using UMGL breeding season climate and winter climate from non-breeding regions for each species. Where possible, we focused on non-breeding regions known to be linked through migratory connectivity. We ranked 10 species as highly vulnerable to climate change and two as having low vulnerability. The remaining 34 species were ranked as moderately vulnerable.
In general, including non-breeding data provided more robust results that were highly individualistic by species. Two species were found to be highly vulnerable throughout their annual cycle. Projected drying will have the greatest effect during the non-breeding season for species overwintering in Mexico and the Caribbean. Projected temperature increases will have the greatest effect during the breeding season in UMGL as well as during the non-breeding season for species overwintering in South America. We provide a model for adaptive management of migratory animals in the face of projected climate change, including identification of priority species, research needs, and regions within non-breeding ranges for potential conservation partnerships.