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Adapting conservation efforts to face climate change: Modifying nest-site provisioning for lesser kestrels

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Abstract

Adaptation to climate change has recently become a crucial element on the climate change policy agenda as it is now recognized that even the most stringent mitigation efforts may not arrest the effects of climate warming. The ecological impacts and costs of predicted weather-related extreme events, such as extreme temperatures, are not fully understood and may present unexpected challenges to conservationists that require solutions. In Portugal, provisioning of artificial nests has been the main driver of the spectacular increase in the endangered lesser kestrel population. Nevertheless, atypically high temperatures recorded during the 2009 breeding season coincided with a mortality of 22% of surveyed chicks in provided nests. Hot days did not affected prey delivery rates to the nestlings, suggesting that the die-off was due to chicks’ acute dehydration. Chick mortality was significantly higher amongst younger individuals. Within survivors, physiological costs of high temperatures significantly affected chick growth and body condition at fledging. Nest-site microclimate was influenced by nest-type and compass orientation: wooden nest-boxes attained the highest temperatures, exceeding 55 °C when facing south, so explaining the recorded higher mortality, lower growth rates and lower fledging body condition among broods in these nests. Simulated scenarios of global warming with increasing occupation rate of artificial nests due to reductions in alternatives predicted a reduction in population growth rate. In the worst scenario, with a 100% occupancy of nest-boxes, the population growth would decline on average 7% per year. The impact of high temperatures on lesser kestrel breeding success highlights a need for actions to modify and research to adapt conservation efforts and future planning to account for climate change.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1119
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume144
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Peer-reviewedYes

Keywords

    Research areas

  • Adaptation, Artificial nests, Climate change, Falco naumanni, Lesser kestrel, Temperature

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