Ecological Responses to Extreme Flooding Events: A Case Study with a Reintroduced Bird.
Nature Publishing Group
This is the final version of the article. Available from Nature Publishing Group via the DOI in this record.
In recent years numerous studies have documented the effects of a changing climate on the world's biodiversity. Although extreme weather events are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity and are challenging to organisms, there are few quantitative observations on the survival, behaviour and energy expenditure of animals during such events. We provide the first data on activity and energy expenditure of birds, Eurasian cranes Grus grus, during the winter of 2013-14, which saw the most severe floods in SW England in over 200 years. We fitted 23 cranes with telemetry devices and used remote sensing data to model flood dynamics during three consecutive winters (2012-2015). Our results show that during the acute phase of the 2013-14 floods, potential feeding areas decreased dramatically and cranes restricted their activity to a small partially unflooded area. They also increased energy expenditure (+15%) as they increased their foraging activity and reduced resting time. Survival did not decline in 2013-14, indicating that even though extreme climatic events strongly affected time-energy budgets, behavioural plasticity alleviated any potential impact on fitness. However under climate change scenarios such challenges may not be sustainable over longer periods and potentially could increase species vulnerability.
We thank Mitch Weegman, Miguel Villoslada and Anne Harrison for technical support and advice; to Jorge S. Gutierrez for helpful suggestions on the drafts of the manuscript; and to Damon Bridge and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) volunteers for providing survival and breeding data. We also thank the Environmental Agency for allowing us access to water gauge measurements in the study area. We are grateful to Larry Griffin, Amy King, Harry Nevard and numerous volunteers for assistance with telemetry deployments. SB is funded by an EU consolidator’s grant: STATEMIG 310820. ASR is supported by a joint predoctoral grant from the University of Exeter, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the RSPB.
Vol. 6, pp. 28595 -
Place of publication