Temperature can interact with landscape factors to affect songbird productivity


Correspondence: W. Andrew Cox, tel. 573 875 5341 ext. 234, fax 573 875 0038, e-mail: wac253@mail.missouri.edu


Increased temperatures and more extreme weather patterns associated with global climate change can interact with other factors that regulate animal populations, but many climate change studies do not incorporate other threats to wildlife in their analyses. We used 20 years of nest-monitoring data from study sites across a gradient of habitat fragmentation in Missouri, USA, to investigate the relative influence of weather variables (temperature and precipitation) and landscape factors (forest cover and edge density) on the number of young produced per nest attempt (i.e., productivity) for three species of songbirds. We detected a strong forest cover × temperature interaction for the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) on productivity. Greater forest cover resulted in greater productivity because of reduced brood parasitism and increased nest survival, whereas greater temperatures reduced productivity in highly forested landscapes because of increased nest predation but had no effect in less forested landscapes. The Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) exhibited a similar pattern, albeit with a marginal forest cover × temperature interaction. By contrast, productivity of the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was not influenced by landscape effects or temperature. Our results highlight a potential difficulty of managing wildlife in response to global change such as habitat fragmentation and climate warming, as the habitat associated with the greatest productivity for flycatchers was also that most negatively influenced by high temperatures. The influence of high temperatures on nest predation (and therefore, nest predators) underscores the need to acknowledge the potential complexity of species' responses to climate change by incorporating a more thorough consideration of community ecology in the development of models of climate impacts on wildlife.