Can microclimate offer refuge to an upland bird species under climate change?

Dario Massimino, Colin Beale, Andrew Suggitt, Humphrey Crick, Nicholas Macgregor, Matthew Carroll, Ilya Maclean, James Pearce-Higgins

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Abstract

Context: Climate change is a severe threat to biodiversity. Areas with a high variety of microclimates may provide opportunities for species to persist in a changing climate.

Objectives: Test the extent to which microclimate is an important determinant of the distribution of a widespread upland passerine, the meadow pipit Anthus pratensis, and whether microclimate becomes an increasingly important determinant of distribution towards the warm edge of the species’ range.

Methods: We used models of the occurrence of meadow pipits based on data from an extensive survey to identify macroclimate and topographic associations, the latter as proxies of microclimate. We assessed magnitude and direction of the effects of microclimate and whether the magnitude of microclimate effects increases as macroclimate suitability declines.

Results: The probability of meadow pipit occurrence is significantly correlated with macroclimate and microclimate. Microclimate accounts for about a third of the variation in occupancy probability and has a stronger effect than macroclimate at all three spatial scales considered. Elevation and topographical wetness index are positively correlated with meadow pipit occurrence, while insolation is negatively correlated. Elevation and macroclimate suitability show a positive interaction, while insolation and macroclimate suitability show a negative interaction.

Conclusions: Microclimate substantially influences the distribution of the meadow pipit. For high latitude and upland species such as this, suitable areas on cool slopes could form the focus for conservation protection, as these areas are likely to become increasingly utilised and may remain the only locations occupied in otherwise unsuitable climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1907-1922
Number of pages16
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume35
Issue number9
Early online date18 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

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