Native Hawaiian birds are renowned for their beauty and unique evolutionary history, where numerous species rely on native plants for food in the form of nectar and fruit. Many of these important native plants that provision food for birds rely on climatic cues – such as rain and temperature – to time their flowering and fruiting activity. Understanding how birds respond to climatically-induced changes in their food web represents an important step towards predicting the effects of climate change on vulnerable wildlife species.
To better understand these complex relationships, Klamath Bird Observatory research associate, Dr. Jared Wolfe, and KBO research advisor, Dr. C. John Ralph, used data collected from the Big Island of Hawaii to measure long-term relationships between changes in climate, fruit and flower production, and the timing of breeding and molting in native and non-native birds. Their results were recently published in the scientific journal Ecology in a paper titled “Bottom-up Processes Influence the Demography and Life-cycle Phenology of Hawaiian Bird Communities”.
“Flower and fruit abundance at our study site were strongly affected by seasonal changes in rain, which had cascading effects on the timing of important lifecycle events of birds, such as breeding seasonality”. says lead author Wolfe. “Our results suggest that changes in climate can cascade up the food chain and strongly affect wildlife at higher trophic levels.”
Results from the analysis suggest that three native birds that commonly feed on nectar, the ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane and Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi, all timed their breeding season with the availability of ʻōhiʻa lehua flowers, which in-turn, used heavy rains to time flowering activity.
“Our project is one of the first from Hawaii to combine long-term climate, plant phenology and bird monitoring data to disentangle these complex trophic relationships” says co-author Ralph. “These types of studies are rare because they rely on long-term and labor-intensive field work. But, findings from long-term studies such as this one are critically important because they provide insights into how changes in climate might affect native Hawaiian birds.”
Dr. John Alexander, Executive Director of the Klamath Bird Observatory, will speak about climate change at two upcoming events. He will be the featured speaker at next Rogue Valley Audubon Society (RVAS) monthly meeting November 28, 2017 and will join other local scientists at Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center’s (KS Wild) “Your Climate Refuge: hotter, drier, and no less wild” event November 29, 2017.
John will share what critical impacts climate change is having on regional and national bird populations, and summarize research that KBO is undertaking in his talk “Climate Change: A Bird’s Eye View”. Recent research suggests that the challenges bird communities already face are exacerbated by climate change. As climate change brings shifts of habitats, birds can be among the first to tell the story of climate trends. Just like the canary in a coal mine they may alert us to what is happening and what the future holds, if we are paying attention. The U.S. Department of Interior’s 2010 State of the Birds Report on Climate Change, to which Klamath Bird Observatory contributed, addressed this critical issue.
Both meetings are open to the public—join us to learn about international, national, and regional efforts to adapt bird conservation and natural resource management strategies to effectively meet the most urgent needs in the face of climate change.
Klamath Bird Observatory research scientist Dr. Sarah Rockwell was mentioned in the most recent issue of Living Bird, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (click here to see the article). Sarah completed her Ph.D. research with Dr. Peter Marra (now Director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center) on the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler in her home state of Michigan. She found that after drier winters in The Bahamas (which are predicted by several climate change models), Kirtland’s Warblers arrived on Michigan breeding grounds later in the spring, raised fewer offspring, and had lower survival rates that year. This emphasizes the importance of winter habitats for migratory birds; conditions there can carry over to affect birds during different parts of the annual cycle.
“Without natural wildfires, the Kirtland’s Warbler may always be a conservation-reliant species, but it is important to demonstrate the success the Kirtland’s recovery team has had in alleviating limitations on the breeding grounds, and increasing the population from around 200 pairs in the 1970s to over 2,000 pairs today,” says Sarah. “My research helped demonstrate threats that could result from drought on wintering grounds in The Bahamas, which still need to be addressed. Nathan Cooper’s research (discussed in the article) adds important data to the question of identifying where else Kirtland’s Warblers might be spending the winter, as well as important stopover sites along migratory routes, which would be good candidates for habitat protection. My work also demonstrated that Kirtland’s Warblers have higher mortality during migration than any part of the year, making this a critical part of its life cycle.”
Dr. Rockwell, who says she’ll always have a soft spot for this charismatic species, will present her research as an invited speaker in the Kirtland’s Warbler symposium that will take place as part of this year’s American Ornithological Society meeting. She will also present KBO research using birds as indicators to evaluate riparian restoration at beaver dam analogue sites in the Scott Valley, California (click here for more information about this project).
Dr. Sarah Rockwell’s Kirtland Warbler publications: Rockwell, S. M., C. I. Bocetti, and P. P. Marra (2012). Carry-over effects of winter climate on spring arrival date and reproductive success in an endangered migratory bird, Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii). The Auk 129:744-752. http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1525/auk.2012.12003
Rockwell, S. M., J. M. Wunderle, Jr., T. S. Sillett, C. I. Bocetti, D. N. Ewert, D. Currie, J. D. White, and P. P. Marra (2017). Seasonal survival estimation for a long-distance migratory bird and the influence of winter precipitation. Oecologia 183:715-726. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00442-016-3788-x
People spend a lot of time watching birds, and scientists are no exception. Because birds use such a wide variety of resources and respond quickly to environmental change, they are gold mines of information. Even better, most species are easy to find, especially in the spring when they are singing! Scientists from Klamath Bird Observatory, the Klamath Inventory & Monitoring (I&M) Network and others used a wealth of bird data from the Klamath Ecoregion to understand how birds naturally group themselves across the landscape. Their results were just published in PLOS ONE, “Bird Communities and Environmental Correlates in southern Oregon and northern California, USA.”
Recent research suggests that the challenges bird communities already face are exacerbated by climate change. As climate change brings shifts of habitats, birds can be among the first to tell the story of climate trends. Just like the canary in a coalmine, they may alert us to what is happening and what the future holds. If we are paying attention.
Join Southern Oregon Climate Action Now and Klamath Bird Observatory to learn about international, national, and regional efforts to adapt bird conservation and natural resource management strategies to effectively meet the most urgent needs in the face of climate change.
Dr. John Alexander, Director of the Klamath Bird Observatory, will be the guest speaker at the next Southern Oregon Climate Action Now general meeting April 25th 6:00 pm at the Medford Public Library. John will share what critical impacts climate change is having on regional and national bird populations, and summarize research that KBO is undertaking in his talk “Climate Change: A Bird’s Eye View”. The U.S. Department of Interior’s 2010 State of the Birds Report on Climate Change, to which Klamath Bird Observatory contributed, addressed this very issue.
Interested in learning more about the diverse birds of the Klamath-Siskiyou region this fall? Klamath Bird Observatory Board Members and friends are offering lectures and classes on topics ranging from birds and climate change to attracting and feeding birds in your yard.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for a lecture or sign up for a class.
CANARY IN THE COAL MINE, BIRDS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Thursday October 15th from 5:30-6:30 at the SOU, Hannon Library
***SCIENCE BRIEF AND NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
August 14, 2015 – For Immediate Release
Contact: John Alexander, jda[AT]klamathbird.org, 541-890-7067
Patterns of plant, amphibian, mammal, and bird distribution have been used to identify ecological boundaries in the Klamath Region of southern Oregon and northern California, one of the most biophysically complex areas in North America. These patterns are described in a paper, recently published in the Natural Areas Journal, written by collaborators from the National Park Service, US Geological Survey, Klamath Bird Observatory, and other organizations. “This paper represents our first collaborative effort to link biogeography with protected areas management in the Klamath Region,” says the papers lead author, Daniel Sarr (formerly with the National Park Service and now working with the US Geological Survey). John Alexander, Klamath Bird Observatory’s Executive Director and a co-author on the paper added, “In the Klamath Region, natural resource managers are challenged with managing the complex array of environments that characterize the area. In this paper, we describe patterns that help delineate meaningful ecological units, or Management Domains, that are intended to advance collaborative natural resource management in the Region.”
The distributions of species described in the paper illustrate conceptual and spatial domains for natural areas management that provide an eco-regional framework for collaborative conservation. The paper describes a Maritime Management Domain in the western portion of the Region that is similar to other coastal areas. To the east, a Great Basin Domain that is similar to other Great Basin environments is also described. While conservation management approaches that have been tested in other areas of the west coast and Great Basin may be effectively applied in these two Domains, a third Eastern Klamath Management Domain, at the core of the Klamath Region, is more unique and presents novel management challenges. This third Domain has higher species richness and endemism than other environments in the western United States that are climatically similar, such as the southwest. Because the area is so unique, management approaches that have been successful in other areas may not be as easily applied in the Eastern Klamath Management Domain. Lead author Daniel Sarr explains further, “Because of its exceptional spatial complexity, it has not always been clear how management concepts and approaches developed in other areas of the West can best be used in the Klamath Region.”
However, the species that characterize the Eastern Klamath Domain may be the key to the conservation and management of natural areas in the Klamath Region. The Klamath Region will likely serve as an important refugia for a number of at-risk species that may become more threatened by climate change. Therefore management intended to help the Region’s unique array of native species persist into an uncertain future is becoming a priority. This paper presents an improved understanding of how such species are distributed across the region which, in combination with knowledge about the species’ habitat needs, can help inform design of the novel management approaches that may be needed in the Klamath Region.
Dr. Sarr concluded the following about these research results, “This new paper represents ongoing efforts to identify spatially explicit management domains and serves as a step forward. The work will undoubtedly be refined through ongoing observational science efforts being conducted by the Klamath Bird Observatory, National Park Service, and other regional partners.”
Klamath Bird Observatory, based in Ashland, Oregon, advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Klamath Bird Observatory is fueled by partner-driven science programs. We use birds as indicators of the healthy and resilient ecosystems on which we all depend. Our science involves three integrated aspects: 1) long-term monitoring, 2) theoretical research, and 3) applied ecology. We bring our results to bear through science delivery involving partnership driven engagement in conservation planning, informing the critical decisions being made today that will have lasting influences on the health of our natural resources well into the future.
Klamath Bird Observatory’s award-winning model was developed in the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. We now apply this model more broadly throughout the Pacific Northwest. Plus, our intensive professional education and international capacity building programs expand our influence into Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Excepts from an interview with KBO Executive Director John Alexander were quoted in an article written by Meg Scherch Peterson and published in the Taos News. The article brings attention to the conservation challenges facing this miraculous migratory hummingbird.
Alexander describes the Rufous Hummingbird as “an indicator of habitat features that are important for the hardwood understory of the forest.” He talks about the species’ population declines and its preferred breeding habitat that is often associated with wildfire. In the article Alexander relates KBO science to post-wildfire management – “The science suggests we allow the forest to evolve naturally through successional stages. In the past, we’ve often bypassed these stages.” Alexander expresses concerns about best available science not being used to inform management.
Contact: Jared Wolfe, jdw[AT]klamathbird.org, 262-443-6866
Habitat alteration due to forest clearing and climate change threaten wildlife populations across the globe. To better understand the interacting effects of habitat degradation and climate on bird populations, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW), Klamath Bird Observatory, and Costa Rica Bird Observatories spent 12 years studying the White-collared Manakin, a fruit-eating tropical bird, in mature and young forests along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. During the study, several El Niño and La Niña events—cycles of warm and cold ocean temperatures that influence air temperature and precipitation—resulted in very marked dry and wet annual conditions that allowed researchers to measure differences in manakin survival relative to climatic shifts. Results were recently published as the cover article in the journal Oecologia July 2015 edition.
In young tropical forests, researchers found dramatic decreases in manakins’ survival during dry weather associated with El Niño. Researchers believe that, due to a sparser canopy and their fragmented nature, the young forests were more susceptible to understory drying that reduced fruit production. Conversely, manakins’ survival rates were higher during wet years associated with La Niña events in these young forests where increased moisture and sun exposure likely led to an abundance of fruit resources. In mature forests, researchers observed very stable manakin survival rates regardless of climatic shifts, suggesting a relatively constant abundance of fruit resources.
“The complex structure of mature forest is thought to serve as a climatic refuge, buffering fruiting plants from climatic changes resulting in stable manakin survival,” says Jared Wolfe, a postdoctoral researcher with PSW and Klamath Bird Observatory and the study’s lead author. “Climatic refuges, such as mature tropical forests, may be important for many resident tropical bird species faced with the decreasing availability of mature forests coupled with increases in the severity of El Niño-associated dryness.”
These study results represent the first published documentation of El Niño’s influence on the survival of a resident tropical landbird. Researchers believe that variation in manakin survival between forest types provides insight into the sensitivity of certain species to habitat alteration. “From a management perspective, understanding how climatic events affect biodiversity is critical for the development of science-based conservation strategies,” says Pablo Elizondo, the Costa Rica Bird Observatories’ executive director and co-author of the study.
This publication represents an ongoing collaboration between Klamath Bird Observatory, the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and International Programs, and the Costa Rica Bird Observatories.