Reduced avian body condition due to global warming has little reproductive or population consequences
Climate change has strong effects on traits such as phenology and physiology. Studies typically assume that climate‐induced trait changes will have consequences for population dynamics, but explicit tests are rare. Body condition reflects energy storage and may directly affect how much can be invested in reproduction and survival. However, the causal pathway by which decreased body condition impacts population dynamics has never been quantified across multiple populations and species. Therefore, we lack a general understanding of the consequences of changes in condition for variables more relevant for conservation, such as population size. Using structural equation modeling, we investigate how temperature‐induced changes in body condition affect reproduction, and the subsequent impact on population growth rates of 19 bird species across 80 Dutch sites over a 21‐year period. Warmer temperatures were associated with decreased body condition, which led to both decreased and increased reproduction at different sites, cancelling out any overall effect. The indirect effect of temperature on population growth (via body condition and reproduction) only explained within‐species variation in the total effects of temperature on population growth. Instead, the direct effect of temperature on population growth (unrelated to condition and reproduction) was the most important pathway underlying the total effects of temperature on population growth, suggesting that unknown variables are mediating this effect. About half of the species are expected to increase under global warming, but this variation was not associated with any species characteristic. Overall, body condition responses to global warming are common, but their consequences on reproduction and subsequently population growth contribute relatively little to the total temperature impacts on population dynamics. Given that warming temperatures have strong effects on population dynamics, understanding the pathways via which temperature impacts population dynamics will be crucial for our ability to predict climate change effects in the future and improve conservation efforts.
McLean N., Van der Jeugd H.P., Van Turnhout C.A.M., Lefcheck J.S. & Van de Pol M.