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Climate change has indirect effects on resource use and overlap among coexisting bird species with negative consequences for their reproductive success


Correspondence: Sonya K. Auer, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, 201 Holdsworth Hall, 160 Holdsworth Way, Amherst, MA 01003, USA, tel. + (949) 680 0208, fax + (413) 545-4358, e-mail:


Climate change can modify ecological interactions, but whether it can have cascading effects throughout ecological networks of multiple interacting species remains poorly studied. Climate-driven alterations in the intensity of plant–herbivore interactions may have particularly profound effects on the larger community because plants provide habitat for a wide diversity of organisms. Here we show that changes in vegetation over the last 21 years, due to climate effects on plant–herbivore interactions, have consequences for songbird nest site overlap and breeding success. Browsing-induced reductions in the availability of preferred nesting sites for two of three ground nesting songbirds led to increasing overlap in nest site characteristics among all three bird species with increasingly negative consequences for reproductive success over the long term. These results demonstrate that changes in the vegetation community from effects of climate change on plant–herbivore interactions can cause subtle shifts in ecological interactions that have critical demographic ramifications for other species in the larger community.