Effect of Climate Change on Mediterranean Winter Ranges of Two Migratory Passerines


We studied the effect of climate change on the distribution of two insectivorous passerines (the meadow pipit Anthus pratensis and the chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita) in wintering grounds of the Western Mediterranean basin. In this region, precipitation and temperature can affect the distribution of these birds through direct (thermoregulation costs) or indirect effects (primary productivity). Thus, it can be postulated that projected climate changes in the region will affect the extent and suitability of their wintering grounds. We studied pipit and chiffchaff abundance in several hundred localities along a belt crossing Spain and Morocco and assessed the effects of climate and other geographical and habitat predictors on bird distribution. Multivariate analyses reported a positive effect of temperature on the present distribution of the two species, with an additional effect of precipitation on the meadow pipit. These climate variables were used with Maxent to model the occurrence probabilities of species using ring recoveries as presence data. Abundance and occupancy of the two species in the study localities adjusted to the distribution models, with more birds in sectors of high climate suitability. After validation, these models were used to forecast the distribution of climate suitability according to climate projections for 2050–2070 (temperature increase and precipitation reduction). Results show an expansion of climatically suitable sectors into the highlands by the effect of warming on the two species, and a retreat of the meadow pipit from southern sectors related to rain reduction. The predicted patterns show a mean increase in climate suitability for the two species due to the warming of the large highland expanses typical of the western Mediterranean.