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Long-term trend toward earlier breeding in an American bird: A response to global warming?

Authors
Publisher
The National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Source
PMC
Keywords
  • Biological Sciences
Disciplines
  • Ecology

Abstract

In regions with severe winters, global warming may be expected to cause earlier onset of breeding in most animals, yet no documentation of such a trend exists in North America. In a study of marked individuals of the Mexican jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina) in southeastern Arizona, from 1971 to 1998, the mean Julian date of first clutch in the population declined significantly by 10.1 days. The date of the first nest in the population also became earlier, by 10.8 days. These changes were associated with significant trends toward increased monthly minimum temperatures on the study area, traits that are associated with the onset of breeding in this population. Significant trends from 1971 to 1997 toward warmer minimum temperatures in the months before and during the initiation of breeding were observed. These trends parallel changes in minimum temperatures and community composition in a recent study of grassland ecology in the western United States. Together, they suggest that more attention should be given to the possible ecological importance of global change in minimum temperatures.

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