ESR 7:87-99 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00095

REVIEW
Travelling through a warming world: climate change and migratory species

Robert A. Robinson1,*, Humphrey Q. P. Crick1, Jennifer A. Learmonth2, Ilya M. D. Maclean1, Chris D. Thomas3, Franz Bairlein4, Mads C. Forchhammer5, Charles M. Francis6, Jennifer A. Gill7, Brendan J. Godley8, John Harwood9, Graeme C. Hays10, Brian Huntley11, Anthony M. Hutson12, Graham J. Pierce2, Mark M. Rehfisch1, David W. Sims13,14, M. Begoña Santos2, Timothy H. Sparks15, David A. Stroud16, Marcel E. Visser17

1British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK
2Dept Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Ave, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
3Dept Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK
4Institute of Avian Research, ‘Vogelwarte Helgoland’, An der Vogelwarte 21, 26386 Wilhelmshaven, Germany
5Dept. of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute, Frederiksborgvej 399, PO Box 358, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
6Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada
7Centre for Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
8Centre for Ecology & Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus TR10 9EZ, UK
9Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, The Observatory, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9LZ, UK
10Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
11Institute of Ecosystem Science, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
12Winkfield, Station Road, Plumpton Green, East Sussex BN7 3BU, UK
13Marine Biological Association of the UK, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
14Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
15Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK
16Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Monkstone House, Peterborough PE1 1JY, UK
17Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: Long-distance migrations are among the wonders of the natural world, but this multi-taxon review shows that the characteristics of species that undertake such movements appear to make them particularly vulnerable to detrimental impacts of climate change. Migrants are key components of biological systems in high latitude regions, where the speed and magnitude of climate change impacts are greatest. They also rely on highly productive seasonal habitats, including wetlands and ocean upwellings that, with climate change, may become less food-rich and predictable in space and time. While migrants are adapted to adjust their behaviour with annual changes in the weather, the decoupling of climatic variables between geographically separate breeding and non-breeding grounds is beginning to result in mistimed migration. Furthermore, human land-use and activity patterns will constrain the ability of many species to modify their migratory routes and may increase the stress induced by climate change. Adapting conservation strategies for migrants in the light of climate change will require substantial shifts in site designation policies, flexibility of management strategies and the integration of forward planning for both people and wildlife. While adaptation to changes may be feasible for some terrestrial systems, wildlife in the marine ecosystem may be more dependent on the degree of climate change mitigation that is achievable.


KEY WORDS: Birds · Marine mammals · Turtles · Fish · Phenology · Population change · Conservation


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Cite this article as: Robinson RA, Crick HQP, Learmonth JA, Maclean IMD and others (2009) Travelling through a warming world: climate change and migratory species. Endang Species Res 7:87-99

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