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Global Change Research Institute, CAS

Global increase in nest predation of shorebirds with relation to climate change revealed by CzechGlobe researcher stimulated attention in journal Science

We have lived with the assumption that many migrating shorebirds can fly over large distances to breed in the Arctic to utilise lower nest predation among other advantages, e.g. plenty of food during the short Arctic summer, continuous daylight or lower parasite prevalence. However, a new study: Global pattern of nest predation is disrupted by climate change in shorebirds published in Science has discovered recent rapid increase in shorebird nest predation, especially in the Arctic, breaking the historical latitudinal gradient with the highest nest predation in the tropics. Higher nest predation rates are tightly associated with more pronounced global warming and climatic instability at the same locations. The climatically driven crash in abundances and cyclicity of lemmings at many Arctic places just prior the year 2000 probably play an important role in the recent pattern, because without lemmings, Arctic predators exploit more an alternative prey, e.g. shorebirds nest. Therefore sad but important message is that the Arctic nowadays represents an extensive ecological trap for migrating shorebirds from nest predation perspective.

“These findings have been quite unexpected for us as well as for the scientific community because it had been supposed that migratory shorebirds are limited mainly by deteriorated adult survival at stopover sites but now we have found another potentially very influential driver of avian population dynamics – the reduced breeding success caused by higher predation rates at previously pristine Arctic breeding grounds.” says Dr. Vojtěch Kubelka from CzechGlobe, the leading author of the recent Science study.

The media coverage of this publication was considerable, probably reaching more than 10,000,000 readers worldwide. Some examples can be accessed at ÉLVONAL Shorebird Science websites.

The surprising findings resulted in few researchers inviting others to participate in a technical commentary on the original article, trying to dispute some of the original findings. Their Technical Commentary was published alongside the Response by authors in Science.

“We have carefully revisited our data as well as analyses and found no support for the concerns raised in the Technical Commentary. We believe that these concerns are simple to address and we recommend to any reader to inspect carefully the original article alongside the Technical Commentary as well as the Response and make own judgement out of it.” adds Dr. Vojtěch Kubelka.

“In sum, our Science articles have drawn the attention to the deteriorating breeding success of shorebirds. We hope that this work will stimulate more studies, not only within the CzechGlobe, and importantly, the discussions will feed into policy decisions and better conservation of shorebirds and their fragile environment. The clock is ticking, and the targeted cooperation over countries and organizations is the way forward” finishes Dr. Vojtěch Kubelka on the behalf of the authors.

Science Response as well as the original article are freely accessible at ÉLVONAL Shorebird Science  websites.

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) sitting at the nest, Chukotka, Arctic Russia, 2010
Male of critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Calidris pygmaea) at a breeding ground, species suffering higher nest predation rates recently, Chukotka, Arctic Russia, 2015
Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) in blooming mountain tundra, preferred breeding habitat, Chukotka, Arctic Russia, 2010
Camouflaged Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) incubating a clutch in mountain tundra, Chukotka, Arctic Russia, 2015
Nest of the Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) with a view over the Pacific. Only several tens of those nests have been found during whole history of ornithology due to its crypticity and the breeding area remoteness, Chukotka, Arctic Russia, 2015
Broken-wing display performed by Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) which should drive a potential predator away from the nest, Barrow, Alaska, 2012
Predated nest of Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) at the bank of a steppe lake near Caspian see, Astrakhan region, Russia, 2017
If resisting to predators over the whole incubation period, more less self-contained chicks can hatch from the nest od Pectoral sandpiper (Calidris melanotos), Barrow, Alaska 2012
Golden chicks of American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) match surroundings to not attract predators, Barrow, Alaska, 2012
Many Arctic places are accessible only by helicopter or vězděchod (caterpillar), authors Vojtěch Kubelka and Miroslav Šálek during the Arctic expedition in 2015, Chukotka, Russia