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The impacts of climate change on the ecology of a migrant wetland warbler

Vafidis, James 2014. The impacts of climate change on the ecology of a migrant wetland warbler. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Climate-change has the potential to affect migratory birds by altering prey availability across their annual cycle. Observational and experimental approaches were used to understand the causes and consequences of these changes on the breeding productivity, mass regulation and survival of a wetland bird; the Eurasian reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus. Climatic influences on wetland invertebrate populations were assessed by monitoring natural and experimentally-induced variations in temperature. Further increases in early spring temperatures are likely to result in earlier availability of prey resources. The responses of breeding birds to changes in their prey were tested with food supplementations, which advanced egg-laying dates, reduced the laying interval and incubation duration, and increased nestling growth rate. These effects enable earlier first fledglings and increase the opportunity for second breeding attempts within the peak invertebrate prey window. The consequences of prey availability on wintering body condition were tested by comparing resources and energy reserves in contrasting habitats in West Africa during the non-breeding period. Birds occupying prey-rich habitats maintained lower body reserves than conspecifics occupying prey-poor dry-scrub habitats, consistent with strategic buffering of reserves against starvation in food-poor habitat. These results suggest how reed warblers are able to survive in lower quality habitats and potentially avoid density-dependent mortality associated with drought as observed in other wetland migrants. Analysis of long term (>30 year) weather effects on survival revealed measurable but minor impacts, suggesting reed warblers are very adaptive to environmental change. Overall, this study provides strong support for climate-driven advance in spring invertebrate availability and identifies the reed warbler breeding and survival parameters most affected by increases to prey availability. This study provides an integrated and original understanding of the mechanisms which may underlie current levels of population growth in what appears to be one of the few long-distance migratory European songbird species currently benefiting from climate-change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Climate-change, birds, behaviour, ecology
Funders: European Social Fund Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship project,
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Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 07:57

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