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Simulation-based reconstruction of global bird migration over the past 50,000 years

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Somveille, Marius 
Wikelski, Martin 
Beyer, Robert M. 
Rodrigues, Ana S. L. 


Abstract: Migration is a widespread response of birds to seasonally varying climates. As seasonality is particularly pronounced during interglacial periods, this raises the question of the significance of bird migration during past periods with different patterns of seasonality. Here, we apply a mechanistic model to climate reconstructions to simulate the past 50,000 years of bird migration worldwide, a period encompassing the transition between the last glacial period and the current interglacial. Our results indicate that bird migration was also a prevalent phenomenon during the last ice age, almost as much as today, suggesting that it has been continually important throughout the glacial cycles of recent Earth history. We find however regional variations, with increasing migratory activity in the Americas, which is not mirrored in the Old World. These results highlight the strong flexibility of the global bird migration system and offer a baseline in the context of on-going anthropogenic climate change.


Funder: Supported through the Max Planck – Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change

Funder: Supported through the Max Planck – Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change and from the Knobloch Family Foundation


Article, /704/158/2039, /704/158/852, /704/158/1144, /704/158/2462, article

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Nature Communications

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Nature Publishing Group UK
EC | EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020 | H2020 Priority Excellent Science | H2020 European Research Council (H2020 Excellent Science - European Research Council) (647787)
National Science Foundation (NSF) (DEB 1441737, DBI 1262600)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (NNX11AP72G)