Latitudinal gradients in population dynamics can arise through regional variation in the deterministic components of the population dynamics and the stochastic factors. Here, we demonstrate an increase with latitude in the contribution of a large-scale climate pattern, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), to the fluctuations in size of populations of two European hole-nesting passerine species. However, this influence of climate induced different latitudinal gradients in the population dynamics of the two species. In the great tit the proportion of the variability in the population fluctuations explained by the NAO increased with latitude, showing a larger impact of climate on the population fluctuations of this species at higher latitudes. In contrast, no latitudinal gradient was found in the relative contribution of climate to the variability of the pied flycatcher populations because the total environmental stochasticity increased with latitude. This shows that the population ecological consequences of an expected climate change will depend on how climate affects the environmental stochasticity in the population process. In both species, the effects will be larger in those parts of Europe where large changes in climate are expected.
1. The aim of the present study is to model the stochastic variation in the size of five populations of great tit Parus major in the Netherlands, using a combination of individual-based demographic data and time series of population fluctuations. We will examine relative contribution of density-dependent effects, and variation in climate and winter food on local dynamics as well as on number of immigrants. 2. Annual changes in population size were strongly affected by temporal variation in number of recruits produced locally as well as by the number of immigrants. The number of individuals recruited from one breeding season to the next was mainly determined by the population size in year t, the beech crop index (BCI) in year t and the temperature during March-April in year t. The number of immigrating females in year t + 1 was also explained by the number of females present in the population in year t, the BCI in autumn year t and the temperature during April-May in year t. 3. By comparing predictions of the population model with the recorded number of females, the simultaneous modelling of local recruitment and immigration explained a large proportion of the annual variation in recorded population growth rates. 4. Environmental stochasticity especially caused by spring temperature and BCI did in general contribute more to annual fluctuations in population size than density-dependent effects. Similar effects of climate on local recruitment and immigration also caused covariation in temporal fluctuations of immigration and local production of recruits. 5. The effects of various variables in explaining fluctuations in population size were not independent, and the combined effect of the variables were generally non-additive. Thus, the effects of variables causing fluctuations in population size should not be considered separately because the total effect will be influenced by covariances among the explanatory variables. 6. Our results show that fluctuations in the environment affect local recruitment as well as annual fluctuations in the number of immigrants. This effect of environment on the interchange of individuals among populations is important for predicting effects of global climate change on the pattern of population fluctuations.
Many bird species reproduce earlier in years with high spring temperatures, but little is known about the causal effect of temperature. Temperature may have a direct effect on timing of reproduction but the correlation may also be indirect, for instance via food phenology. As climate change has led to substantial shifts in timing, it is essential to understand this causal relationship to predict future impacts of climate change. We tested the direct effect of temperature on laying dates in great tits (Parus major) using climatized aviaries in a 6-year experiment. We mimicked the temperature patterns from two specific years in which our wild population laid either early ('warm' treatment) or late ('cold' treatment). Laying dates were affected by temperature directly. As the relevant temperature period started three weeks prior to the mean laying date, with a range of just 4 degrees C between the warm and the cold treatments, and as the birds were fed ad libitum, it is likely that temperature acted as a cue rather than lifting an energetic constraint on the onset of egg production. We furthermore show a high correlation between the laying dates of individuals reproducing both in aviaries and in the wild, validating investigations of reproduction of wild birds in captivity. Our results demonstrate that temperature has a direct effect on timing of breeding, an important step towards assessing the implication of climate change on seasonal timing.