Journal article

Climatic variation in Africa and Europe has combined effects on timing of spring migration in a long-distance migrant
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

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Publication Details

Author list: Reminisiewicz M, Underhill LG

Publisher: PeerJ

Publication year: 2020

Journal: PeerJ

Volume number: 1

Start page: 1

End page: 30

Total number of pages: 30

ISSN: 2167-8359

eISSN: 2167-8359


Background. The arrival of many species of migrant passerine in the European spring has shifted earlier over recent decades, attributed to climate change and rising temperatures in Europe and west Africa. Few studies have shown the effects of climate change in both hemispheres though many long-distance migrants use wintering grounds which span Africa. The migrants’ arrival in Europe thus potentially reflects a combination of the conditions they experience across Africa. We examine if the timing of spring migration of a long-distance migrant, the Willow Warbler, is related to largescale climate indices across Africa and Europe. Methods. Using data from daily mistnetting from 1 April to 15 May in 1982–2017 at Bukowo (Poland, Baltic Sea coast), we developed an Annual Anomaly metric (AA, in days) to estimate how early or late Willow Warblers arrive each spring in relation to their multi-year average pattern. The Willow Warblers’ spring passage advanced by 5.4 days over the 36 years. We modelled AA using 14 potential explanatory variables in multiple regression models. The variables were the calendar year and 13 large-scale indices of climate in Africa and Europe averaged over biologically meaningful periods of two to four months during the year before spring migration. Results. The best model explained 59% of the variation in AA with seven variables: Northern Atlantic Oscillation (two periods), Indian Ocean Dipole, Southern Oscillation Index, Sahel Precipitation Anomaly, Scandinavian Index and local mean temperatures. The study also confirmed that a long-term trend for Willow Warblers to arrive earlier in spring continued up to 2017. Discussion. Our results suggest that the timing of Willow Warbler spring migration at the Baltic Sea coast is related to a summation of the ecological conditions they had encountered over the previous year during breeding, migration south, wintering in Africa and migration north. We suggest these large-scale climate indices reflect ecological drivers for phenological changes in species with complex migration patterns and discuss the ways in which each of the seven climate indices could be related to spring migration at the Baltic Sea coast


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Last updated on 2020-12-10 at 13:45