Significance

The changing climate is causing shifts in the timing of species activity. We use data on over 820,000 nesting records to quantify changes in the beginning, end, and duration of breeding among boreal birds. In addition to a general advance of breeding, we find an overall contraction of the breeding period. This pattern was most common among resident and short-distance migrating species. Overall, we detect a shift in the community-level distribution of bird reproduction, involving the start and end of reproduction and how concentrated the breeding period is. From a methodological perspective, our study illustrates that a focus on quantifying phenological advances alone may mask important patterns of phenology change across the season.

Abstract

Breeding timed to match optimal resource abundance is vital for the successful reproduction of species, and breeding is therefore sensitive to environmental cues. As the timing of breeding shifts with a changing climate, this may not only affect the onset of breeding but also its termination, and thus the length of the breeding period. We use an extensive dataset of over 820K nesting records of 73 bird species across the boreal region in Finland to probe for changes in the beginning, end, and duration of the breeding period over four decades (1975 to 2017). We uncover a general advance of breeding with a strong phylogenetic signal but no systematic variation over space. Additionally, 31% of species contracted their breeding period in at least one bioclimatic zone, as the end of the breeding period advanced more than the beginning. We did not detect a statistical difference in phenological responses of species with combinations of different migratory strategy or number of broods. Nonetheless, we find systematic differences in species responses, as the contraction in the breeding period was found almost exclusively in resident and short-distance migrating species, which generally breed early in the season. Overall, changes in the timing and duration of reproduction may potentially lead to more broods co-occurring in the early breeding season—a critical time for species’ reproductive success. Our findings highlight the importance of quantifying phenological change across species and over the entire season to reveal shifts in the community-level distribution of bird reproduction.

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Data Availability

Data deposition: The data used for these analyses have been deposited in the publicly accessible Dryad Digital Repository, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wstqjq2ht.

Acknowledgments

We thank the thousands of bird ringers who have meticulously recorded data on ringing events for half a century. We thank the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation for financial support through the Research Centre for Ecological Change. A.L. received financial support from the Academy of Finland (Grant 275606). We are grateful to Bess Hardwick, Jari Valkama, and Markus Piha for help with data management. Otso Ovaskainen and Øystein Opedal provided advice on implementing HMSC.

Supporting Information

Appendix (PDF)

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 117 | No. 31
August 4, 2020
PubMed: 32690693

Classifications

Data Availability

Data deposition: The data used for these analyses have been deposited in the publicly accessible Dryad Digital Repository, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wstqjq2ht.

Submission history

Published online: July 20, 2020
Published in issue: August 4, 2020

Keywords

  1. Aves
  2. global change
  3. life-history strategies
  4. reproduction
  5. phenology

Acknowledgments

We thank the thousands of bird ringers who have meticulously recorded data on ringing events for half a century. We thank the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation for financial support through the Research Centre for Ecological Change. A.L. received financial support from the Academy of Finland (Grant 275606). We are grateful to Bess Hardwick, Jari Valkama, and Markus Piha for help with data management. Otso Ovaskainen and Øystein Opedal provided advice on implementing HMSC.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003;
Zoology Unit, Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden;
Research Centre for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland;
Helsinki Institute of Life Science, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: [email protected].
Author contributions: M.H.H. conceived the original idea and led the project; M.H.H., L.H.A., A.L., T.R., and M.S. designed research; M.H.H., L.H.A., and T.L. performed research; M.I. analyzed data; and M.H.H., L.H.A., M.I., A.L., T.R., and M.S. wrote the paper.
2
L.H.A. and M.I. contributed equally to this work.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interest.

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    Shifts in timing and duration of breeding for 73 boreal bird species over four decades
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 117
    • No. 31
    • pp. 18131-18893

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