Climate change, habitat degradation, and direct exploitation are thought to threaten biodiversity. But what makes some species more sensitive to global change than others? Approaches to this question have relied on comparing the fate of contrasting groups of species. However, if some ecological parameter affects the fate of species faced with global change, species response should vary smoothly along the parameter gradient. Thus, grouping species into few, often two, discrete classes weakens the approach. Using data from the common breeding bird survey in France – a large set of species with much variability with respect to the variables considered – we show that a quantitative measure of habitat specialization and of latitudinal distribution both predict recent 13 year trends of population abundance among 77 terrestrial species: the more northerly distributed and the more specialized a species is, the sharper its decline. On the other hand, neither hunting status, migrating strategy nor body mass predicted population growth rate variation among common bird species. Overall, these results are qualitatively very similar to the equivalent relationships found among the British butterfly populations. This constitutes additional evidence that biodiversity in Western Europe is under the double negative influence of climate change and land use change.
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