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White stork nest altitude decreases as global temperatures increase


Climate change causes altitudinal shifts of animal distributions and this effect can potentially be accentuated or altered due to human agricultural activities. Because of the availability of uniquely long-term monitoring data, we chose the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) as a model species. We analyzed large data sets (record cards from 1191 nests) covering the long-term period from 1875 to 2005 in the Czech Republic, central Europe. We analyzed nest altitude during years of founding of the nest, temperature, land use variables and types of nests (natural vs. human provided nest pads). Consistent with findings from previous studies we predicted a temporal increase in the altitude of white stork nests. Surprisingly, we found that the altitude of nests was decreasing, despite an increase in local mean spring temperatures. The altitude of nests was higher when the proportion of arable land, water areas and developed land was lower and when the proportion of grass and forest cover was greater. The decrease in altitude was significant in natural nests (built by storks) but non-significant in nests on nest platforms (built by humans). Thus, human agricultural activities might potentially override the opposing effects of global climate change on animal altitudinal distribution shifts.

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We thank the Czech Society for Ornithology for access to nest record cards and Bohumil Rejman for the long-term coordination of monitoring of the white stork in the Czech Republic. We would like to acknowledge all citizen science observers and regional coordinators of white stork nesting. We thank Tereza Nováková for map of districts. We also would like to thank Jessica Cuthbert and Kalliope Dalto for their assistance editing a previous version of this paper. This project was supported by internal grants from Palacký University (PrF_2011_029, PrF_2012_018 and PrF_2013_018).

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Correspondence to Markéta Nyklová-Ondrová.

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Nyklová-Ondrová, M., Hanley, D. & Grim, T. White stork nest altitude decreases as global temperatures increase. Biologia 75, 273–278 (2020).

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  • Altitude
  • Climate change
  • Ciconia ciconia
  • Temperature
  • Land use