Climate change may affect fatal competition between two bird species

Samplonius, J. M. & Both, C., 21-Jan-2019, In : Current Biology. 29, 2, p. 327-331.e2 5 p.

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Climate warming has altered phenologies of many taxa [1, 2], but the extent differs vastly between [3, 4] and within trophic levels [5-7]. Differential adjustment to climate warming within trophic levels may affect coexistence of competing species, because relative phenologies alter facilitative and competitive outcomes [8, 9], but evidence for this is scant [10, 11]. Here, we report on two mechanisms through which climate change may affect fatal interactions between two sympatric passerines, the resident great tit Parus major and the migratory pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, competing for nest sites. Spring temperature more strongly affected breeding phenology of tits than flycatchers, and tits killed more flycatchers when flycatcher arrival coincided with peak laying in the tits. Ongoing climate change may diminish this fatal competition if great tit and flycatcher phenologies diverge. However, great tit density increased after warm winters, and flycatcher mortality was elevated when tit densities were higher. Consequently, flycatcher males in synchronous and high-tit-density years suffered mortality by great tits of up to 8.9%. Interestingly, we found no population consequences of fatal competition, suggesting that mortality predominantly happened among surplus males. Indeed, late-arriving males are less likely to find a partner [12], and here we show that such late arrivers are more likely to die from competition with great tits. We conclude that our breeding population is buffered against detrimental effects of competition. Nevertheless, we expect that if buffers are diminished, population consequences of interspecific competition may become apparent, especially after warm winters that are benign to resident species. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-331.e2
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number2
Early online date10-Jan-2019
Publication statusPublished - 21-Jan-2019
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