Home > News Center > Research & Teaching > Climate influence the breeding phenology of a multi-brooded songbird

Climate influence the breeding phenology of a multi-brooded songbird

Last updated :2019-12-14

Source: School of Life Sciences
Written by: School of Life Sciences
Edited by: Wang Dongmei

Climate change has profoundly influenced global biodiversity. Most of research on this topic focused on how climate change affect the phenology of many species, especially on avian breeding phenology. Climate warming has been shown to advance the timing of the onset of breeding of many bird species across the world. However, majority of them focused on single-brooded species in the north hemisphere. How climate change influence the breeding phenology of multi-brooded species in the south hemisphere is very rare.

Recently, Prof. Yang Liu’s group published a paper titled “When to start and when to stop: Effects of climate on breeding in a multi-brooded songbird” in the top ecological journal Global Change Biology. This study used 28 years of field data from south-eastern Australia to investigate the links between climate, timing of breeding, and breeding success in a cooperatively-breeding passerine, the superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus).

Effects of climate on the start of breeding (a), the end of breeding (b, c), and the effects of breeding phenology on individual breeding success (d, e)
The results show higher minimum temperatures in early spring resulted in an earlier start and a longer duration of breeding, whereas less rainfall and more heatwaves (days > 29℃) in late summer resulted in an earlier end and a shorter duration of breeding. In the analysis of breeding success, the results show earlier start dates did not predict whether or not females produced any young in a season. However, for successful females who produced at least one young, earlier start dates were associated with higher numbers of young produced in a season. Earlier end dates were associated with a higher probability of producing at least one young, presumably because unsuccessful females kept trying when others had ceased. Despite larger-scale trends in climate, climate variables in the windows relevant to this species’ phenology did not change across years, and there were no temporal trends in phenology during our study period.

This study results illustrate a scenario in which higher temperatures advanced both start and end dates of individuals’ breeding seasons, but did not generate an overall temporal shift in breeding times. They also suggest that the complexity of selection pressures on breeding phenology in multi-brooded species may have been underestimated. Additionally, this study provides a model example to evaluate the effect of climate change on phenology of multi-breed species and also offers new indications in predicting how species response to climate change. Dr. Lei Lv from Prof. Yang Liu’s group in School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, is the first and corresponding author. Prof. Yang Liu (from Sun Yat-sen University), Prof. Loeske Kruuk and Prof. Andrew Cockburn (both from The Australian National University) joined this research. This study was supported by Super Computation of the NSFC-Guangdong Joint Fund (U1501501), Open Grant of the State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol of Sun Yat-sen University (SKLBC15KF02), and Australian Research Council (DP150100298).