Protecting Artic migrants against climate change

This study evaluates the consequences of climate change on suitable breeding grounds for Arctic shorebirds.

Data resources used via GBIF : 81,503 species occurrences
A grain of sanderling (Calidris alba)

A grain of sanderling (Calidris alba) by Robin Agarwal via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Millions of birds migrate to and from the Arctic every year with some species travelling more than 20,000 km to escape the cold of the winter. Warming climates may, however, disturb breeding grounds and disrupt migratory flyways. In this study, researchers modelled climatically suitable breeding grounds of 24 Arctic specialist shorebirds and projected them to future climates as well as the last major global warming event, 6,000 years ago. The models predict a drastic decline in suitable breeding conditions by the year 2070, with as many as 20 species losing up to half their current breeding grounds. The conditions at the last warming event were far less severe. The Beringia region of Alaska and Russia with high shorebird species richness and endemism, is predicted to become unsuitable for many species. The study suggests protection of migratory stopover sites for birds having to travel further to reach suitable breeding grounds.

Wauchope HS, Shaw JD, Varpe Ø, Lappo EG, Boertmann D, Lanctot RB and Fuller RA (2016) Rapid climate-driven loss of breeding habitat for Arctic migratory birds. Global Change Biology. Wiley-Blackwell. Available at doi:10.1111/gcb.13404.