Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Nebraska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Fontaine, J.J., K.L. Decker, S. Skagen and C. van Riper. 2009. Spatial and temporal variation in climate change: A bird’s eye view. Climatic Change 97:305-311.


Recent changes in global climate have dramatically altered worldwide temperatures and the corresponding timing of seasonal climate conditions. Recognizing the degree to which species respond to changing climates is therefore an area of increasing conservation concern as species that are unable to respond face increased risk of extinction. Here we examine spatial and temporal heterogeneity in the rate of climate change across western North America and discuss the potential for conditions to arise that may limit the ability of western migratory birds to adapt to changing climates. Based on 52 years of climate data, we show that changes in temperature and precipitation differ significantly between spring migration habitats in the desert southwest and breeding habitats throughout western North America. Such differences may ultimately increase costs to individual birds and thereby threaten the long-term population viability of many species.