Arctic Boreal birds Climate change

A circumpolar study unveils a positive non-linear effect of temperature on arctic arthropod availability that may reduce the risk of warming-induced trophic mismatch for breeding shorebirds

Chagnon-Lafortune, A., Duchesne, É., Legagneux, P., McKinnon, L., Reneerkens, J., Casajus, N., Abraham, K. F., Bolduc, É., Brown, G. S., Brown, S. C., Gates, H. R., Gilg, O., Giroux, M.-A., Gurney, K., Kendall, S., Kwon, E., Lanctot, R. B., Lank, D. B., Lecomte, N., Leung, M., Liebezeit, J. R. ... Bêty, J.


Abstract

Seasonally abundant arthropods are a crucial food source for many migratory birds that breed in the Arctic. In cold environments, the growth and emergence of arthropods are particularly tied to temperature. Thus, the phenology of arthropods is anticipated to undergo a rapid change in response to a warming climate, potentially leading to a trophic mismatch between migratory insectivorous birds and their prey. Using data from 19 sites spanning a wide temperature gradient from the Subarctic to the High Arctic, we investigated the effects of temperature on the phenology and biomass of arthropods available to shorebirds during their short breeding season at high latitudes. We hypothesized that prolonged exposure to warmer summer temperatures would generate earlier peaks in arthropod biomass, as well as higher peak and seasonal biomass. Across the temperature gradient encompassed by our study sites (>10°C in average summer temperatures), we found a 3-day shift in average peak date for every increment of 80 cumulative thawing degree-days. Interestingly, we found a linear relationship between temperature and arthropod biomass only below temperature thresholds. Higher temperatures were associated with higher peak and seasonal biomass below 106 and 177 cumulative thawing degree-days, respectively, between June 5 and July 15. Beyond these thresholds, no relationship was observed between temperature and arthropod biomass. Our results suggest that prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures can positively influence prey availability for some arctic birds. This positive effect could, in part, stem from changes in arthropod assemblages and may reduce the risk of trophic mismatch.

Recommended citation

Chagnon-Lafortune, A., Duchesne, É., Legagneux, P., McKinnon, L., Reneerkens, J., Casajus, N., Abraham, K. F., Bolduc, É., Brown, G. S., Brown, S. C., Gates, H. R., Gilg, O., Giroux, M.-A., Gurney, K., Kendall, S., Kwon, E., Lanctot, R. B., Lank, D. B., Lecomte, N., Leung, M., Liebezeit, J. R. ... Bêty, J. (2024). A circumpolar study unveils a positive non-linear effect of temperature on arctic arthropod availability that may reduce the risk of warming-induced trophic mismatch for breeding shorebirds. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.17356

Donald Reid

Donald Reid

Emeritus Scientist

Arctic

Arctic

Climate change is happening two to four times faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world.