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The indirect effects of climate variability on the reproductive dynamics and productivity of an avian predator in the arid Southwest

Abstract

The deserts of the southwestern US are experiencing rapid warming, and climate models predict declining winter precipitation. The combined effects of higher air temperatures and drought are a reduction in productivity, which may importantly impact reproduction in consumers. Here, we investigate the effects of warming and drought on the reproductive timing and output in loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) in central New Mexico from 2007 to 2012. We found increases in air temperature of 3 °C during the breeding season (March–July) and highly variable winter and annual precipitation. With increasing spring temperatures, shrikes advanced nesting phenology by 20 days over 6 years, a much higher rate than is reported for any other bird species. During this period, the number of breeding pairs also increased from 25 to 37, and clutch size and the number offspring produced per successful nest did not vary. Nest success, however, was often very low and ranged from 11 to 46 %. Although our models indicated that low nest success was driven by precipitation and temperature, it was mediated indirectly through increased predation rates during the hot and dry periods.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the US Department of Defense, Kirtland Air Force Base and Natural Resource Managers C. Finley and D. Akins for financial and logistical support with this project. M. Wootten, O. Cruz, and K. Cruz-McDonnell provided invaluable support and guidance, and this project was only possible through tireless field efforts from V. Bailey and K. Babcock. Bird banding activities were permitted through the US Fish and Wildlife Service (permit no. 23250) and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (authorization no. 3332). We thank T. E. Martin for insightful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript, and H. White, J. Davis and M. Gould for their assistance with program MARK. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved this manuscript. B. O. W. received support for this research through the National Science Foundation (IOS-1122228). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Author contribution statement

C. C. B. designed this study, collected data and performed the data analysis. B. O. W. provided advice for the project design and aided in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Corrie C. Borgman.

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Communicated by Scott McWilliams.

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Borgman, C.C., Wolf, B.O. The indirect effects of climate variability on the reproductive dynamics and productivity of an avian predator in the arid Southwest. Oecologia 180, 279–291 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3456-6

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Keywords

  • Loggerhead shrike
  • Nest phenology
  • Nest survival
  • Climate change
  • Predation