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Title: Climate change, modelling and conservation of the world's terrestrial birds
Author: Voskamp, Alke
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 1594
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2017
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Global climate change is an important threat to biodiversity and is predicted to be a major driver of wildlife population extinctions throughout the current century. Across a wide range of taxa, a well-documented response to climate change has been changes in species distributions, often towards higher latitudes and altitudes. Species distribution models (SDMs) have been widely used to predict further range changes in future but their use has often focused on discrete geographical areas. Moreover, SDMs have typically been correlative, ignoring biological traits. Here, I use SDMs to project future ranges for the world’s terrestrial birds under climate change. To improve the realism of projected range changes, I incorporate biological traits, including species’ age at first breeding and natal dispersal range. I use these projections to predict large-scale patterns in the responses of terrestrial birds to climate change, and to explore the implications of these models for avian conservation. There is little consensus on the most useful predictors for SDMs, so I begin by exploring how this varies geographically. With this knowledge, I develop SDMs for the world’s terrestrial birds and project future species ranges using three different global climate models (CCSM4, GFDL-CM3, HadGEM2-ES) under a low (rcp26), a medium (rcp45) and a high (rcp85) representative concentration pathway. The projected ranges are used to identify species most at risk from climate change and to highlight global hotspots where species are projected to experience the highest range losses. I explore how the projected range changes affect global species communities and I identify areas where species communities are projected to change or novel communities will emerge. I assess how projected changes will affect the ability of the global Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) network to confer protection on the world’s terrestrial bird species. Additionally, I highlight - based on projected range loss and suitable habitat and climate space beyond the dispersal range - species that will be unable to track climate change and that could be candidates for Assisted Colonization (AC). Finally, I explore the divergence between global species richness (SR) patterns and phylogenetic diversity (PD) for the world’s terrestrial birds, to assess if measuring biodiversity and setting conservation targets based on SR can be expected to cover their PD as well. Identifying the global consequences of projected range changes can inform future conservation efforts and research priorities. Changes in range extent and overlap were projected for the vast majority of the world’s terrestrial birds, with one-fifth projected to experience major range losses (>75% decline in range extent projected). This has far reaching consequences for the IBA network, with an overall trend of species moving out of the IBA coverage. Furthermore 13% of the world’s terrestrial birds are projected to have severe range losses that, combined with an inability to follow suitable habitat and climate space, mean they could benefit from AC as a conservation tool. Overall, PD was found to be highly correlated to SR on a global scale; however, there are localized differences where PD is higher or lower than could be expected from SR alone. These differences suggest that considering PD could enhance conservation planning. The results demonstrate the major threat that climate change poses for the world’s terrestrial bird species across all areas of the globe, and highlight the importance of considering climate change impacts to enhance their protection.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available