Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earlier snowmelt prompting earlier breeding of Arctic birds

Date:
June 25, 2014
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
Biologists have found that migratory birds that breed in Arctic Alaska are initiating nests earlier in the spring, and that snowmelt occurring earlier in the season is a big reason why.

Just hatched Arctic shorebirds, like this long-billed dowitcher above, need to feed on abundant insects to grow and get ready for their southward migration in mid-summer. With earlier and earlier springs, shorebirds and other Arctic birds are challenged to adjust the timing of their breeding to insure that young have abundant resources.
Credit: Steve Zack

A new collaborative study that included the work of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) biologists has revealed that migratory birds that breed in Arctic Alaska are initiating nests earlier in the spring, and that snowmelt occurring earlier in the season is a big reason why.

The report, "Phenological advancement in arctic bird species: relative importance of snow melt and ecological factors," appears in the current on-line edition of the journal Polar Biology. Lead author Joe Liebezeit (formerly with WCS) and co-author Steve Zack of WCS have conducted research on Arctic birds and conservation issues in Alaska for more than a decade. Liebezeit now works for the Audubon Society of Portland. Other co-authors of the study include Kirsty Gurney of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Michael Budde and David Ward of the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center.

Researchers looked in nearly 2,500 nests of four shorebird species: semi-palmated sandpiper, red phalarope, red-necked phalarope, and pectoral sandpiper, and one songbird, the lapland longspur, and recorded when the first eggs were laid in each nest. The research occurred across four sites that ranged from the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay to the remote National Petroleum Reserve of western Arctic Alaska.

Snow melt was assessed in nesting plots at different intervals in the early spring. Other variables, like nest predator abundance (which is thought to affect timing of breeding), and satellite measures of "green-up"(the seasonal flush of new growth of vegetation) in the tundra were also assessed as potential drivers of the change in nest timing, but were found to be less important than snow melt.

"It seems clear that the timing of the snow melt in Arctic Alaska is the most important mechanism driving the earlier and earlier breeding dates we observed in the Arctic," said Liebezeit. "The rates of advancement in earlier breeding are higher in Arctic birds than in other temperate bird species, and this accords with the fact that the Arctic climate is changing at twice the rate."

The birds advanced their nesting an average of 4-7 days over the nine years of the study. This pattern agrees with the general observation of 0.5 days per year observed in the scarce few other studies of nest initiation in the Arctic. The rates of change in this pattern are much higher than those observed in studies of temperate birds south of the Arctic. WCS Coordinator of Bird Conservation Steve Zack said, "Migratory birds are nesting earlier in the changing Arctic, presumably to track the earlier springs and abundance of insect prey. Many of these birds winter in the tropics and might be compromising their complicated calendar of movements to accommodate this change. We're concerned that there will be a threshold where they will no longer be able to track the emergence of these earlier springs, which may impact breeding success or even population viability." WCS Beringia Program Coordinator Martin Robards said, "Everything is a moving target in the Arctic because of the changing climate. Studies like these are valuable in helping us understand how wildlife is responding to the dramatic changes in the Arctic ecosystem. The Arctic is so dramatically shaped by ice, and it is impressive how these long-distance migrants are breeding in response to the changes in the timing of melting ice."

This study was made possible by generous funding support from the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Disney Friends for Change, among others. Logistical support was provided by BP.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J. R. Liebezeit, K. E. B. Gurney, M. Budde, S. Zack, D. Ward. Phenological advancement in arctic bird species: relative importance of snow melt and ecological factors. Polar Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00300-014-1522-x

Cite This Page:

Wildlife Conservation Society. "Earlier snowmelt prompting earlier breeding of Arctic birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625151235.htm>.
Wildlife Conservation Society. (2014, June 25). Earlier snowmelt prompting earlier breeding of Arctic birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625151235.htm
Wildlife Conservation Society. "Earlier snowmelt prompting earlier breeding of Arctic birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625151235.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) California's record drought is hurting honey supplies and raising prices for consumers. The lack of rainfall means fewer crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar bees need to make honey. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A U.S. team found nearly 4,000 species in a subglacial lake that hasn't seen sunlight in millennia, showing life can thrive even under the ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins