Drought at a coastal wetland affects refuelling and migration strategies of shorebirds
Automated radio telemetry, Benthic invertebrates, DNA metabarcoding, Plasma metabolites, Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index—SPEI
Droughts can affect invertebrate communities in wetlands, which can have bottom-up effects on the condition and survival of top predators. Shorebirds, key predators at coastal wetlands, have experienced widespread population declines and could be negatively affected by droughts. We explored, in detail, the effects of drought on multiple aspects of shorebird stopover and migration ecology by contrasting a year with average wet/dry conditions (2016) with a year with moderate drought (2017) at a major subarctic stopover site on southbound migration. We also examined the effects of drought on shorebird body mass during stopover across 14 years (historical: 1974–1982 and present-day: 2014–2018). For the detailed comparison of two years, in the year with moderate drought we documented lower invertebrate abundance at some sites, higher prey family richness in shorebird faecal samples, lower shorebird refuelling rates, shorter stopover durations for juveniles, and, for most species, a higher probability of making a subsequent stopover in North America after departing the subarctic, compared to the year with average wet/dry conditions. In the 14-year dataset, shorebird body mass tended to be lower in drier years. We show that even short-term, moderate drought conditions can negatively affect shorebird refuelling performance at coastal wetlands, which may carry-over to affect subsequent stopover decisions. Given shorebird population declines and predicted changes in the severity and duration of droughts with climate change, researchers should prioritize a better understanding of how droughts affect shorebird refuelling performance and survival.
Anderson, Alexandra M.; Friis, Christian; Gratto-Trevor, Cheri L.; Harris, Christopher M.; Love, Oliver P.; Morrison, R. I.Guy; Prosser, Sean W.J.; Nol, Erica; and Smith, Paul A.. (2021). Drought at a coastal wetland affects refuelling and migration strategies of shorebirds. Oecologia, 197 (3), 661-674.