Vulnerability of Australian tropical savanna birds to climate change

April E. Reside, Jeremy VanDerWal, Stephen T. Garnett, Alex S. Kutt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Assessments of species vulnerability to climate change should increase the effectiveness of interventions in the current decline in biodiversity. Species vulnerability to climate change is a consequence of their sensitivity and adaptive capacity, in combination with their exposure to climate change. We apply a vulnerability assessment framework to 243 bird species inhabiting the tropical savannas of northern Australia. We build on previous vulnerability studies by including detailed data for variables relating to species sensitivity to change (relative abundance, clutch size, sensitivity to fire and distribution area), species adaptive capacity (movement behaviour and dietary breadth) and proportional changes predicted for their geographic range (i.e. exposure to climate change). These are integrated to provide a ranking of vulnerability. Our analysis found that birds of Australian tropical savannas cluster together with high sensitivity, with a few wide-ranging increasing species with very low sensitivity. Australian tropical savanna birds have a range of adaptive capacities, and the impact of climate change on these species is predicted to be substantial. Two already endangered species are among the most vulnerable. Species largely restricted to Cape York Peninsula (a geographically distinct region) had the greatest overall vulnerability; these species were, in general, sensitive due to small distributions, sensitivity to fire frequency and had a lower capacity for dispersal. It will be important for the future of Australian tropical savanna birds to mitigate ecological threats and maintain extensive areas of suitable habitat to facilitate species dispersal.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)106-116
    Number of pages11
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Volume41
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

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