Associations of breeding-bird abundance with climate vary among species and trait-based groups in southern California

Authors: Frank A. Fogarty ,Daniel R. Cayan, Laurel L. DeHaan, Erica Fleishman

The responses of individuals and populations to climate change vary as functions of physiology, ecology, and plasticity. We investigated whether annual variation in seasonal temperature and precipitation was associated with relative abundances of breeding bird species at local and regional levels in southern California, USA, from 1968–2013. We tested our hypotheses that abundances were correlated positively with precipitation and negatively with temperature in this semiarid to arid region. We also examined whether responses to climate varied among groups of species with similar land-cover associations, nesting locations, and migratory patterns. We investigated relations between seasonal climate variables and the relative abundances of 41 species as estimated by the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Associations with climate variables varied among species. Results of models of species associated with arid scrublands or that nest on the ground strongly supported our hypotheses, whereas those of species associated with coniferous forests or that nest in cavities did not. Associations between climate variables and the abundances of other trait-based groups were diverse. Our results suggest that species in arid areas may be negatively affected by increased temperature and aridity, but species in nearby areas that are cooler and less arid may respond positively to those fluctuations in climate. Relations with climate variables can differ among similar species, and such knowledge may inform projections of future abundance trajectories and geographic ranges.

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