Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 393–400 | Cite as

Reproductive success is strongly related to local and regional climate in the Arctic snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

  • Frode FossøyEmail author
  • Bård G. Stokke
  • Tone Kjersti Kåsi
  • Kristian Dyrset
  • Yngve Espmark
  • Katrine S. Hoset
  • Morten Ingebrigtsen Wedege
  • Arne Moksnes
Original Paper


Global climate change is regarded as one of the major threats to biodiversity. Both local and regional climate parameters can have strong effects on ecological processes affecting the survival and reproduction of plants and animals. High Arctic ecosystems are characterized by low species diversity and the local species have often evolved specific adaptations to the harsh Arctic environment. Here, we investigate the effect of local and regional climate parameters on snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) reproductive success in the Arctic using a long-term dataset of 15 years. We found strong relationships between both local weather and the Arctic oscillation (AO), a regional climate index, with several breeding parameters. Onset of breeding was earlier in years with high spring temperatures and later in years with high AO index the preceding winter. Importantly, high AO winter index also increased the number of successful fledglings the following summer, possibly mediated via spring phenology. Nestling weight was negatively associated with the AO index during the breeding season. The strong effects of local and regional climate suggest that the ongoing global climate change could potentially have a large effect on this Arctic passerine population.


Climate change Arctic oscillation Passerine 



This study was funded by The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (grant to Y.E.), the Norwegian Research Council (student grants) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU. We would like to thank Jo Anders Auran, Roger Dahl, Gunn Frilund, Tommy Haugan, Eva Hofstad, Steffen Håkonsen, John Ivar Iversen, Tore K.S. Leren, Marie Lier, Mari Murtomaa, Ida A.C. Nävås, Per H. Olsen, Mari Berger Skjøstad and Tom Roger Østerås for valuable help during the fieldwork, and Ivar Herfindal for advice on statistical methods.


  1. Aanes R, Sæther BE, Smith FM, Cooper EJ, Wookey PA, Oritsland NA (2002) The Arctic oscillation predicts effects of climate change in two trophic levels in a high-arctic ecosystem. Ecol Lett 5:445–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ackerman JT, Eagles-Smith CA (2010) Accuracy of egg flotation throughout incubation to determine embryo age and incubation day in waterbird nests. Condor 112:438–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baayen R (2011) languageR: data sets and functions with “analyzing linguistic data: a practical introduction to statistics”. R package version 1.4Google Scholar
  4. Bangjord G, Pedersen Å, Djøseland O (1999) Hekkende snøspurv i fuglekasser på Svalbard. Vår Fuglefauna 22:109–111Google Scholar
  5. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B (2012) lme4: linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999999-0Google Scholar
  6. Both C, Van Turnhout CAM, Bijlsma RG, Siepel H, Van Strien AJ, Foppen RPB (2010) Avian population consequences of climate change are most severe for long-distance migrants in seasonal habitats. Proc R Soc B 277:1259–1266CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Carey C (2009) The impacts of climate change on the annual cycles of birds. Philos Trans R Soc B 364:3321–3330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cramp S, Perrins C (1994) Buntings and new world warblers. The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol IX. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Dawson RD, Lawrie CC, O’Brien EL (2005) The importance of microclimate variation in determining size, growth and survival of avian offspring: experimental evidence from a cavity nesting passerine. Oecologia 144:499–507CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Førland EJ, Benestad R, Hanssen-Bauer I, Haugen JE, Skaugen TE (2011) Temperature and precipitation development at Svalbard 1900–2100. Adv Meterol (Article ID 893790)Google Scholar
  11. Forsman JT, Mönkkönen M (2003) The role of climate in limiting European resident bird populations. J Biogeogr 30:55–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gwinner E (1996) Circadian and circannual programmes in avian migration. J Exp Biol 199:39–48PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hallett TB, Coulson T, Pilkington JG, Clutton-Brock TH, Pemberton JM, Grenfell BT (2004) Why large-scale climate indices seem to predict ecological processes better than local weather. Nature 430:71–75CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Hanssen-Bauer I, Forland EJ (1998) Long-term trends in precipitation and temperature in the Norwegian Arctic: can they be explained by changes in atmospheric circulation patterns? Clim Res 10:143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoset KS, Espmark Y, Moksnes A, Haugan T, Ingebrigtsen M, Lier M (2004) Effect of ambient temperature on food provisioning and reproductive success in snow buntings Plectrophenax nivalis in the high Arctic. Ardea 92:239–246Google Scholar
  16. Hoset KS, Espmark Y, Lier M, Haugan T, Wedege MI, Moksnes A (2009) The effects of male mating behaviour and food provisioning on breeding success in snow buntings Plectrophenax nivalis in the high Arctic. Polar Biol 32:1649–1656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoset KS, Espmark Y, Fossøy F, Stokke BG, Jensen H, Wedege MI, Moksnes A (2014) Extra-pair paternity in relation to regional and local climate in an Arctic breeding passerine. Polar Biol 37:89–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North-Atlantic oscillation—regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hussell DJT (1985) On the adaptive basis for hatching asynchrony—brood reduction, nest failure and asynchronous hatching in snow buntings. Ornis Scand 16:205–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mac Nally R (2000) Regression and model-building in conservation biology, biogeography and ecology: the distinction between and reconciliation of ‘predictive’ and ‘explanatory’ models. Biodivers Conserv 9:655–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McCarty JP, Winkler DW (1999) Relative importance of environmental variables in determining the growth of nestling tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor. Ibis 141:286–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Møller A, Fiedler W, Berthold P (eds) (2010) Effects of climate change on birds. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Pauls SU, Nowak C, Bálint M, Pfenninger M (2013) The impact of global climate change on genetic diversity within populations and species. Mol Ecol 22:925–946CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Pettorelli N (2012) Climate change as a main driver of ecological research. J Appl Ecol 49:542–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Post E et al (2009) Ecological dynamics across the Arctic associated with recent climate change. Science 325:1355–1358CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. R Development Core Team (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  27. Schaper SV, Dawson A, Sharp PJ, Gienapp P, Caro SP, Visser ME (2012) Increasing temperature, not mean temperature, is a cue for avian timing of reproduction. Am Nat 179:E55–E69CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Serreze MC, Barry RG (2011) Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: a research synthesis. Glob Planet Change 77:85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Skjøstad MB (2008) Sammenhengen mellom næringstilgang og reproduktiv suksess hos snøspurv (Plectrophenax nivalis). Master thesis, Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  30. Starck JM (1998) Avian growth and development: evolution within the altrical precocial spectrum. Oxford ornithology series. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Stenseth NC, Mysterud A (2005) Weather packages: finding the right scale and composition of climate in ecology. J Anim Ecol 74:1195–1198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (1998) The Arctic Oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. Geophys Res Lett 25:1297–1300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM, Hegerl GC (2000) Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part II: trends. J Climate 13:1018–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Urban MC, De Meester L, Vellend M, Stoks R, Vanoverbeke J (2012) A crucial step toward realism: responses to climate change from an evolving metacommunity perspective. Evol Appl 5:154–167CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Visser ME, Both C (2005) Review. Shifts in phenology due to global climate change: the need for a yardstick. Proc R Soc B 272:2561–2569CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Visser ME, te Marvelde L, Lof ME (2012) Adaptive phenological mismatches of birds and their food in a warming world. J Ornithol 153:S75–S84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Walsh C, Mac Nally R (2008) hier.part: hierarchical partitioning. R package version 1.0-3Google Scholar
  38. Walther G-R et al (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416:389–395CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frode Fossøy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bård G. Stokke
    • 1
  • Tone Kjersti Kåsi
    • 1
  • Kristian Dyrset
    • 1
  • Yngve Espmark
    • 1
  • Katrine S. Hoset
    • 2
  • Morten Ingebrigtsen Wedege
    • 3
  • Arne Moksnes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Norwegian Environment AgencyTrondheimNorway

Personalised recommendations