Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends

Martay, B.; Brewer, M.J.; Elston, D.A.; Bell, J.R.; Harrington, R.; Brereton, T.M.; Barlow, K.E.; Botham, M.S.; Pearce-Higgins, J.W.. 2017 Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends. Ecography, 40 (10). 1139-1151.

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Climate change has had well-documented impacts on the distribution and phenology of species across many taxa, but impacts on species’ abundance, which relates closely to extinction risk and ecosystem function, have not been assessed across taxa. In the most comprehensive multi-taxa comparison to date, we modelled variation in national population indices of 501 mammal, bird, aphid, butterfly and moth species as a function of annual variation in weather variables, which through time allowed us to identify a component of species’ population growth that can be associated with post-1970s climate trends. We found evidence that these climate trends have significantly affected population trends of 15.8% of species, including eight with extreme (> 30% decline per decade) negative trends consistent with detrimental impacts of climate change. The modelled effect of climate change could explain 48% of the significant across-species population decline in moths and 63% of the population increase in winged aphids. The other taxa did not have significant across-species population trends or consistent climate change responses. Population declines in species of conservation concern were linked to both climatic and non-climatic factors respectively accounting for 42 and 58% of the decline. Evident differential impacts of climate change between trophic levels may signal the potential for future ecosystem disruption. Climate change has therefore already driven large-scale population changes of some species, had significant impacts on the overall abundance of some key invertebrate groups and may already have altered biological communities and ecosystems in Great Britain.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0906-7590
Additional Keywords: aphids, birds, climate change, Lepidoptera, mammals, population abundance
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 02 Nov 2016 11:46 +0 (UTC)

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