Seasonal niche tracking of climate emerges at the population level in a migratory bird


Seasonal animal migration is a widespread phenomenon. At the species level, it has been shown that many migratory animal species track similar climatic conditions throughout the year. However, it remains unclear whether such a niche tracking pattern is a direct consequence of individual behaviour or emerges at the population or species level through behavioural variability. Here, we estimated seasonal niche overlap and seasonal niche tracking at the individual and population level of central European white storks (Ciconia ciconia). We quantified niche tracking for both weather and climate conditions to control for the different spatio-temporal scales over which ecological processes may operate. Our results indicate that niche tracking is a bottom-up process. Individuals mainly track weather conditions while climatic niche tracking mainly emerges at the population level. This result may be partially explained by a high degree of intra- and inter-individual variation in niche overlap between seasons. Understanding how migratory individuals, populations and species respond to seasonal environments is key for anticipating the impacts of global environmental changes.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences