UMass study offers new insights into bird climates

Monday, August 01, 2016

AMHERST — A new study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst disproves long-held assumptions about the kinds of climates bird species live in over time.

The study suggests species that have seen population increases over the past 30 years occupy a wider range of climate conditions than they did three decades ago, while birds that have seen population declines have occupied a smaller range of habitats.

The study was published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography and the authors believe it is the first of its kind.

It was led by former UMass avian ecologist Joel Ralston, now a professor at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Ralston said scientists had assumed species would keep the sameclimate niches as they grew in population, but this study counters that idea, according to a university news release. 

He also said the study could give conservation managers a better idea of what habitats to protect and could help make models of species distributions more accurate in the future.

“While this is an advancement of ecological theory, I think overturning this assumption is one of the important practical applications of our work,” Ralston said in a statement released by UMass.