Aim Global climate change is increasingly influencing ecosystems. Long-term effects on the species richness and composition of ecological communities have been predicted using modelling approaches but, so far, hardly demonstrated in the field. Here, we test whether changes in the composition of bird communities have been influenced by recent climate change.
Methods We focus on the proportion of migratory and resident bird species because these groups are expected to respond differently to climatic change. We used the spatial relationship between climatic factors and bird communities in Europe to predict changes in 21 European bird communities under recent climate change.
Results Observed changes corresponded significantly to predicted changes and could not be explained by the effects of spatial autocorrelation. Alternative factors such as changes in land use were tested in a first approximation as well but no effects were found.
Main conclusions This study demonstrates that global climate change has already influenced the species richness and composition of European bird communities.