Surviving on a warming planet can be a matter of timing—but simply shifting lifecycle stages to match the tempo of climate change has hidden dangers for some animals, according to new research from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour and Cornell University. The study has uncovered drastic consequences for birds that are breeding earlier in lockstep with earlier starts of spring: chicks hatching earlier face increased risk of poor weather conditions, food shortages and mortality.
The researchers, who examined decades of data on weather, food availability and breeding in Tree Swallows, say that the timing of when to breed and when food is available is becoming decoupled for some animals—highlighting the complexity behind how organisms respond to climate change. “Simply moving dates earlier to track climate change isn’t necessarily risk free. Riskier conditions earlier in the year can expose animals to unintended consequences when responding to bouts of unusually warm spring weather,” says Ryan Shipley, postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour and first author on the paper. MORE