Spring temperatures influence selection on breeding date and the potential for phenological mismatch in a migratory bird


Climate change has affected the seasonal phenology of a variety of taxa, including that of migratory birds and their critical food resources. However, whether climate-induced changes in breeding phenology affect individual ftness, and how these changes might therefore influence selection on breeding date remain unresolved. Here, we use a 36-yr dataset from a long-term, individual-based study of House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) to test whether the timing of avian breeding seasons is associated with annual changes in temperature, which have increased to a small but signifcant extent locally since the onset of the study in 1980. Increasing temperature was associated with an advancement of breeding date in the population, as the onset of breeding within years was closely associated with daily spring temperatures. Warmer springs were also associated with a reduced incubation period, but reduced incubation periods were associated with a prolonged duration of nestling provisioning. Nest productivity, in terms of fledgling production, was not associated with temperature, but wetter springs reduced fledging success. Most years were characterized by selection for earlier breeding, but cool and wet years resulted in stabilizing selection on breeding date. Our results indicate that climate change and increasing spring temperatures can affect suites of life-history traits, including selection on breeding date. Increasing temperatures may favor earlier breeding, but the extent to which the phenology of populations might advance may be constrained by reductions in ftness associated with early breeding during cool, wet years. Variability in climatic conditions will, therefore, shape the extent to which seasonal organisms can respond to changes in their environment.

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