Avian population consequences of climate change are most severe for long-distance migrants in seasonal habitats.

C. Both, C.A.M. van Turnhout, R.G. Bijlsma, H. Siepel, A.J. van Strien, R.P.B. Foppen

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310 Citations (Scopus)


One consequence of climate change is an increasing mismatch between timing of food requirements and food availability. Such a mismatch is primarily expected in avian long-distance migrants because of their complex annual cycle, and in habitats with a seasonal food peak. Here we show that insectivorous long-distance migrant species in The Netherlands declined strongly (1984–2004) in forests, a habitat characterized by a short spring food peak, but that they did not decline in less seasonal marshes. Also, within generalist long-distance migrant species, populations declined more strongly in forests than in marshes. Forest-inhabiting migrant species arriving latest in spring declined most sharply, probably because their mismatch with the peak in food supply is greatest. Residents and short-distance migrants had non-declining populations in both habitats, suggesting that habitat quality did not deteriorate. Habitat-related differences in trends were most probably caused by climate change because at a European scale, long-distance migrants in forests declined more severely in western Europe, where springs have become considerably warmer, when compared with northern Europe, where temperatures during spring arrival and breeding have increased less. Our results suggest that trophic mismatches may have become a major cause for population declines in long-distance migrants in highly seasonal habitats
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259-1266
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society. B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • warblers acrocephalus-schoenobaenus
  • west-african rainfall
  • winter moth
  • species richness
  • migratory birds
  • pedunculate oak
  • parus-major
  • great tits
  • declines
  • abundance

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