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Drop In Daddy Long Legs Is Devastating Bird Populations

Date:
March 30, 2009
Source:
Newcastle University
Summary:
Research shows how climate change is having an impact on upland bird species such as the golden plover.

Eurasian Golden Plover, Pluvialis apricaria. Warm summers are dramatically reducing populations of daddy long legs, which in turn is having a severe impact on the bird populations which rely on them for food.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Image

Warm summers are dramatically reducing populations of daddy long legs, which in turn is having a severe impact on the bird populations which rely on them for food.

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New research by a team of bird experts, including Newcastle University’s Dr Mark Whittingham, spells out for the first time how climate change may affect upland bird species like the golden plover – perhaps pushing it towards local extinction by the end of the century.

It also points a way forward to how we can attempt to strengthen habitats to help wildlife adapt to our changing climate and prevent such consequences.

Previous research has shown how changes in the timing of the golden plover breeding season as a result of increasing spring temperatures might affect their ability to match the spring emergence of their cranefly (daddy long legs) prey.

The new research shows the true effects are much more severe.

Higher temperatures in late summer are killing the cranefly larvae, resulting in a drop of up to 95 per cent in the number of adult craneflies emerging the following spring. With these craneflies providing a crucial food source for a wide range of upland birds like the golden plover, this means starvation and death for many chicks.

“The population of Golden Plovers in our study will likely be extinct in around 100 years if temperature predictions are correct and the birds cannot adapt to feed on other prey sources,” explains Newcastle University’s Dr Mark Whittingham, who worked on the study with scientists from RSPB Scotland andAberystwyth and Manchester universities.

“Our study models the impacts of climate change on the ecology of the animal. In this case we show that higher August temperatures, as predicted from climate change models, are correlated with lower numbers of daddy-long legs.

“Daddy long-leg abundance is key for Golden Plover chicks in terms of growth and survival. Worryingly, our work is likely to apply to other upland bird species that also rely on daddy-long legs as a prey resource, such as Curlew.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Newcastle University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pearce-higgins et al. Impacts of climate on prey abundance account for fluctuations in a population of a northern wader at the southern edge of its range. Global Change Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01883.x

Cite This Page:

Newcastle University. "Drop In Daddy Long Legs Is Devastating Bird Populations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326092356.htm>.
Newcastle University. (2009, March 30). Drop In Daddy Long Legs Is Devastating Bird Populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326092356.htm
Newcastle University. "Drop In Daddy Long Legs Is Devastating Bird Populations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326092356.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

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