Is adjustment of breeding phenology keeping pace with the need for change? Linking observed response in woodland birds to changes in temperature and selection pressure
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- Goodenough, A.E., Hart, A.G. & Stafford, R. Climatic Change (2010) 102: 687. doi:10.1007/s10584-010-9932-4
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Despite the recent plethora of studies investigating biotic implications of climate change, most research has been undertaken without the need for change being quantified. Failure to link observed responses to selection pressure is a fundamental omission because whether change is appropriate cannot then be determined. We use almost 7,000 records to analyse long-term (1974–2004) changes in breeding phenology for six co-occurring woodland birds at a site with significantly increasing spring temperatures. We link observed change to changes in selection for early laying (calculated using differential breeding success as the season progresses) to determine whether change is: (1) necessary, (2) appropriate, and (3) sufficient. Three (resident) species—blue tit, great tit, and nuthatch—started clutches significantly earlier over time without selection for early laying becoming stronger over the same period. This suggests that observed advancements are appropriate, and sufficient, to track climate change. For another species—coal tit—there was no change in lay date, and although there was always selection to lay early, selection intensity did not change over time. For this, the earliest-laying species, bet-hedging to prevent maladaptation (laying too early) or stabilising selection may be acting to maintain phenological inertia, even when phenological change could be adaptive. For the final two (migratory) species—pied flycatcher and redstart—there was no temporal change in lay date, despite selection for early laying becoming significantly stronger over time. This study indicates that some species are tracking climate change successfully while ecologically-similar species, at the same study site, are failing to do so.