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David Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Population fluctuations and weather: a multi-taxa assessment

Abstract

Impacts of recent climate warming have been observed in a wide range of aquatic and terrestrial organisms (e.g. IPCC 2007). Evidence of changes in the timing of seasonal events (phenology) and changes to species’ ranges dominate recent reviews, yet a comparable assessment of changes in population abundance has been lacking.

We present preliminary results from the Biodiversity Impacts of Climate Change Observation Network (BICCO-Net) project, the first attempt to examine the population level consequences of recent climate change across a range of taxa including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. Based on data from established national monitoring programmes in the United Kingdom, we provide a standardized assessment of relationships between change in population abundance and climatic factors. Such an analysis is only possible due to the long duration (schemes have operated between two and four decades), extensive spatial replication and coverage (> 13,000 sample sites included) and taxonomic scope (721 species from 8 groups); in total, the monitoring dataset comprises more than 84,000 population estimates.

For all taxonomic groups and for the four standard bioclimate variable tested, significant effects on population change were detected; overall, 14.7% of all relationships tested were significant. We highlight the main differences between species groups in their response to different aspects of the climate and discuss potential confounding factors (e.g. land-use) affecting populations. 

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