Date: November 28, 2016
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Wildlife ecologists who study the effects of climate change assume, with support from several studies, that warming temperatures caused by climate change are forcing animals to move either northward or upslope on mountainsides to stay within their natural climate conditions.
But a new study of lowland and higher-mountain bird species by wildlife ecologists Bill DeLuca and David King at the University of Massachusetts Amherst now reports an unexpected and "unprecedented" inconsistency in such shifts. The majority of the mountain bird community responded against expectation and shifted downslope despite warming trends in the mountains. They say the result "highlights the need for caution when applying conventional expectations to species' responses to climate change."
In their article in the current issue of Journal of Ornithology, DeLuca and King say that although other studies have found species shifting either downslope or toward the equator, the opposite of expectations given the warming climate, theirs is the first to find that the majority of the bird community is responding contrary to these expectations.
DeLuca says of the unexpected shift among many bird species, "This is really important information for mountains in the northeastern U.S. like the White Mountains, Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. It helps to confirm that human activities like climate change, pollution and land management are affecting the distribution of mountain species."