Title

Effects of Past and Future Climatic Variation on Vital Rates Across the Annual Cycle in a Neotropical Migratory Songbird [online video]

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Original Publication Date

2021

Document Type

Presentation

Comments

7th Annual VCU 3MT® Competition, held on October 15, 2021.

Abstract

More than 3 billion birds have been lost in North America over the last 50 years. This loss indicates a widespread ecological crisis as birds are one of the best monitored animal groups, indicating similar or greater losses in other taxonomic groups. One of the primary factors influencing this avian decline is human-induced climate change. Unfortunately, climate change is difficult to study at the species-level, as it requires the rare long-term data set. Fortunately, in 1987, a field site was established along the James River to study the Prothonotary Warbler. The Prothonotary Warbler is a small yellow songbird that we see in wetland areas of Eastern North America, and they migrate to South America for the winter. My study took this 34-year data set, and I built mathematical models to see what's affecting their survival.

Transcription

I want you to take a second and look at the slide behind me and think about what you see. I'll tell you what I see. I see the reality for more than 3 billion birds that have been lost in North America over the last 50 years. This loss indicates a widespread ecological crisis as birds are one of the best monitored animal groups, indicating similar or greater losses in other taxonomic groups. They are the canary in the coal mine, if you will. One of the primary factors influencing this avian decline is human-induced climate change. Unfortunately, climate change is difficult to study at the species-level, as it requires the rare long-term data set. Fortunately, in 1987, a field site was established along the James River to study the Prothonotary Warbler. The Prothonotary Warbler is a small yellow songbird that we see in wetland areas of Eastern North America, and they migrate to South America for the winter. They are considered a great model species for studying climate change, and results from the studies may be used to better understand what is occurring in other declining species. Now my study took this 34-year data set, and I built mathematical models to see what's affecting their survival. I looked at factors like their age, their weight, how many siblings they have, and other intrinsic factors. But I looked at climate factors as well, like the temperature and precipitation during the breeding season, and the El Nino Southern Oscillation Index, which tells us about the climate during the winter. I found that only 2% of juveniles now survive their first year of life, and only 50% of adults survive each year after that. The factors that are most influencing their survival rate is the temperature during the breeding season and the El Nino index in the winter, both indicating warmer temperatures decrease survival. This information can be used to project future populations based on different climate change scenarios, ranging from if we do nothing and ignore the problem to doing everything we can to stop the rising temperatures. Policymakers can then take this information and make informed decisions on how to best protect the environment we depend on. Because the one thing we know for certain is that unless we do something, we will be left with nothing. Thank you.

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