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SOURCE: Monga Bay

DATE: December 17, 2018

SNIP: A new analysis of over 70 years’ worth of shorebird population data suggests that climate change has altered the migratory birds’ Arctic safe haven to such a degree that it is now helping drive rapid declines in their numbers.

After studying data from 38,191 nests found across all seven continents and belonging to 237 populations of 111 different species, an international team led by researchers with the Milner Centre for Evolution at the UK’s University of Bath determined that shorebirds worldwide have experienced a drastic increase in nest predation over the past seven decades.

At the same time, studies have consistently shown that the survival of adult shorebirds has decreased due to habitat destruction and hunting, which, combined with lower reproduction rates due to increased nest predation, has led to a one-two punch that has shorebird populations on the ropes.

Climate change could be driving increased nest predation in several ways, according to the study. For instance, lemmings are a key element in the Arctic food web, but their numbers have also undergone a severe crash due to changes in the region’s snow cover resulting from higher ambient temperature instability over the past several decades, and the lack of lemmings could have led some predators to seek out shorebird nests more often in order to find a meal. Other potential climate-induced drivers include changes in vegetation structure or in the behavior and distribution of nest predators like foxes, which could have made those predators more successful egg hunters.