Anthropogenic climate change is rapidly becoming one of the main threats to biodiversity, along with other threats triggered by human-driven land-use change. Species are already responding to climate change by shifting their distributions polewards. This shift may create a spatial mismatch between dynamic species distributions and static protected areas (PAs). As protected areas represent one of the main pillars for preserving biodiversity today and in the future, it is important to assess their contribution in sheltering the biodiversity communities, they were designated to protect. A recent development to investigate climate-driven impacts on biological communities is represented by the community temperature index (CTI). CTI provides a measure of the relative temperature average of a community in a specific assemblage. CTI value will be higher for assemblages dominated by warm species compared with those dominated by cold-dwelling species. We here model changes in the CTI of Finnish bird assemblages, as well as changes in species densities, within and outside of PAs during the past four decades in a large boreal landscape under rapid change. We show that CTI has markedly increased over time across Finland, with this change being similar within and outside PAs and five to seven times slower than the temperature increase. Moreover, CTI has been constantly lower within than outside of PAs, and PAs still support communities, which show colder thermal index than those outside of PAs in the 1970s and 1980s. This result can be explained by the higher relative density of northern species within PAs than outside. Overall, our results provide some, albeit inconclusive, evidence that PAs may play a role in supporting the community of northern species. Results also suggest that communities are, however, shifting rapidly, both inside and outside of PAs, highlighting the need for adjusting conservation measures before it is too late.
Rapid climate warming has resulted in shrub expansion, mainly of erect deciduous shrubs in the Low Arctic, but the more extreme, sparsely vegetated, cold and dry High Arctic is generally considered to remain resistant to such shrub expansion in the next decades. Dwarf shrub dendrochronology may reveal climatological causes of past changes in growth, but is hindered at many High Arctic sites by short and fragmented instrumental climate records. Moreover, only few High Arctic shrub chronologies cover the recent decade of substantial warming. This study investigated the climatic causes of growth variability of the evergreen dwarf shrub Cassiope tetragona between 1927 and 2012 in the northernmost polar desert at 83°N in North Greenland. We analysed climate-growth relationships over the period with available instrumental data (1950-2012) between a 102-year-long C. tetragona shoot length chronology and instrumental climate records from the three nearest meteorological stations, gridded climate data, and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO) indices. July extreme maximum temperatures (JulTemx ), as measured at Alert, Canada, June NAO, and previous October AO, together explained 41% of the observed variance in annual C. tetragona growth and likely represent in situ summer temperatures. JulTemx explained 27% and was reconstructed back to 1927. The reconstruction showed relatively high growing season temperatures in the early to mid-twentieth century, as well as warming in recent decades. The rapid growth increase in C. tetragona shrubs in response to recent High Arctic summer warming shows that recent and future warming might promote an expansion of this evergreen dwarf shrub, mainly through densification of existing shrub patches, at High Arctic sites with sufficient winter snow cover and ample water supply during summer from melting snow and ice as well as thawing permafrost, contrasting earlier notions of limited shrub growth sensitivity to summer warming in the High Arctic.
Partial migration - a part of a population migrates and another part stays resident year-round on the breeding site - is probably the most common type of migration in the animal kingdom, yet it has only lately garnered more attention. Theoretical studies indicate that in partially migratory populations, the proportion of resident individuals (PoR) should increase in high latitudes in response to the warming climate, but empirical evidence exists for few species. We provide the first comprehensive overview of the environmental factors affecting PoR and the long-term trends in PoR by studying 27 common partially migratory bird species in Finland. The annual PoR values were calculated by dividing the winter bird abundance by the preceding breeding abundance. First, we analysed whether early-winter temperature, winter temperature year before or the abundance of tree seeds just before overwintering explains the interannual variation in PoR. Secondly, we analysed the trends in PoR between 1987 and 2011. Early-winter temperature explained the interannual variation in PoR in the waterbirds (waterfowl and gulls), most likely because the temperature affects the ice conditions and thereby the feeding opportunities for the waterbirds. In terrestrial species, the abundance of seeds was the best explanatory variable. Previous winter's temperature did not explain PoR in any species, and thus, we conclude that the variation in food availability caused the interannual variation in PoR. During the study period, PoR increased in waterbirds, but did not change in terrestrial birds. Partially migratory species living in physically contrasting habitats can differ in their annual and long-term population-level behavioural responses to warming climate, possibly because warm winter temperatures reduce ice cover and improve the feeding possibilities of waterbirds but do not directly regulate the food availability for terrestrial birds.
There is increasing evidence that climate change shifts species distributions towards poles and mountain tops. However, most studies are based on presence-absence data, and either abundance or the observation effort has rarely been measured. In addition, hardly any studies have investigated the direction of shifts and factors affecting them. Here, we show using count data on a 1000 km south-north gradient in Finland, that between 1970-1989 and 2000-2012, 128 bird species shifted their densities, on average, 37 km towards the north north-east. The species-specific directions of the shifts in density were significantly explained by migration behaviour and habitat type. Although the temperatures have also moved on average towards the north north-east (186 km), the species-specific directions of the shifts in density and temperature did not correlate due to high variation in density shifts. Findings highlight that climate change is unlikely the only driver of the direction of species density shifts, but species-specific characteristics and human land-use practices are also influencing the direction. Furthermore, the alarming results show that former climatic conditions in the north-west corner of Finland have already moved out of the country. This highlights the need for an international approach in research and conservation actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Climate change has been shown to cause poleward range shifts of species. These shifts are typically demonstrated using presence-absence data, which can mask the potential changes in the abundance of species. Moreover, changes in the mean centre of weighted density of species are seldom examined, and comparisons between these two methods are even rarer. Here, we studied the change in the mean weighted latitude of density (MWLD) of 94 bird species in Finland, northern Europe, using data covering a north-south gradient of over 1000 km from the 1970s to the 2010s. The MWLD shifted northward on average 1.26 km yr(-1) , and this shift was significantly stronger in northern species compared to southern species. These shifts can be related to climate warming during the study period, because the annual temperature had increased more in northern Finland (by 1.7 °C) than in southern Finland (by 1.4 °C), although direct causal links cannot be shown. Density shifts of species distributed over the whole country did not differ from shifts in species situated on the edge of the species range in southern and northern species. This means that density shifts occur both in the core and on the edge of species distribution. The species-specific comparison of MWLD values with corresponding changes in the mean weighted latitude using presence-absence atlas data (MWL) revealed that the MWLD moved more slowly than the MWL in the atlas data in the southern species examined, but more rapidly in the northern species. Our findings highlight that population densities are also moving rapidly towards the poles and the use of presence-absence data can mask the shift of population densities. We encourage use of abundance data in studies considering the effects of climate change on biodiversity.
Climate change is driving species to shift their distributions toward high altitudes and latitudes, while habitat loss and fragmentation may hamper species ability to follow their climatic envelope. These two drivers of change may act in synergy, with particularly disastrous impacts on biodiversity. Protected areas, PAs, may thus represent crucial buffers against the compounded effects of climate change and habitat loss. However, large-scale studies assessing the performance of PAs as such buffers remain scarce and are largely based on species occurrence data. Conversely, abundance data have proven to be more reliable for addressing changes in wildlife populations under climate change. We evaluated changes in bird abundance from the 1970s-80s to the 2000s inside and outside PAs at the trailing range edge of 30 northern bird species and at the leading range edge of 70 southern species. Abundances of retracting northern species were higher and declined less inside PAs at their trailing range edge. The positive effect of PAs on bird abundances was particularly marked in northern species that rely strongly on PAs, that is, their density distribution is largely confined within PAs. These species were nearly absent outside PAs in the 2000s. The abundances of southern species were in general lower inside PAs and increased less from the 70s-80s to 2000s. Nonetheless, species with high reliance on PAs had much higher abundances inside than outside PAs in the 2000s. These results show that PAs are essential in mitigating the retraction of northern species, but also facilitate northward expansions of southern species highly reliant on PAs. Our study provides empirical evidence documenting the role of PAs in facilitating species to adjust to rapidly changing climatic conditions, thereby contributing to the mitigation of impending biodiversity loss. PAs may thus allow time for initiating wider conservation programs on currently unprotected land.
A multitude of studies confirm that species have changed their distribution ranges towards higher elevations and towards the poles, as has been predicted by climate change forecasts. However, there is large interspecific variation in the velocity of range shifts. From a conservation perspective, it is important to understand which factors explain variation in the speed and the extent of range shifts, as these might be related to the species' extinction risk. Here, we study shifts in the mean latitude of occurrence, as weighted by population density, in different groups of landbirds using 40 years of line transect data from Finland. Our results show that the velocity of such density shifts differed among migration strategies and increased with decreasing body size of species, while breeding habitat had no influence. The slower velocity of large species could be related to their longer generation time and lower per capita reproduction that can decrease the dispersal ability compared to smaller species. In contrast to some earlier studies of range margin shifts, resident birds and partial migrants showed faster range shifts, while fully migratory species were moving more slowly. The results suggest that migratory species, especially long-distance migrants, which often show decreasing population trends, might also have problems in adjusting their distribution ranges to keep pace with global warming.
Growing season conditions are widely recognized as the main driver for tundra shrub radial growth, but the effects of winter warming and snow remain an open question. Here, we present a more than 100 years long Betula nana ring-width chronology from Disko Island in western Greenland that demonstrates a highly significant and positive growth response to both summer and winter air temperatures during the past century. The importance of winter temperatures for Betula nana growth is especially pronounced during the periods from 1910-1930 to 1990-2011 that were dominated by significant winter warming. To explain the strong winter importance on growth, we assessed the importance of different environmental factors using site-specific measurements from 1991 to 2011 of soil temperatures, sea ice coverage, precipitation and snow depths. The results show a strong positive growth response to the amount of thawing and growing degree-days as well as to winter and spring soil temperatures. In addition to these direct effects, a strong negative growth response to sea ice extent was identified, indicating a possible link between local sea ice conditions, local climate variations and Betula nana growth rates. Data also reveal a clear shift within the last 20 years from a period with thick snow depths (1991-1996) and a positive effect on Betula nana radial growth, to a period (1997-2011) with generally very shallow snow depths and no significant growth response towards snow. During this period, winter and spring soil temperatures have increased significantly suggesting that the most recent increase in Betula nana radial growth is primarily triggered by warmer winter and spring air temperatures causing earlier snowmelt that allows the soils to drain and warm quicker. The presented results may help to explain the recently observed 'greening of the Arctic' which may further accelerate in future years due to both direct and indirect effects of winter warming.