Outcomes

Climate change impacts on the world’s scrubfowl. We recently undertook a major review of the conservation status and vulnerability of the world’s megapodes (scrubfowl) and the impacts of climate change:

Radley, P., Davis, R.A.,Dekker, R., Molloy, S.W., Blake, D. and Heinsohn, R. (2018). Vulnerability of megapodes (Megapodiidae; Aves) to climate change and related threats. Environmental Conservation. 45(4): 396-406.

Owing to high rates of endemism, inherent species range restrictions, and high vulnerability to stochastic and anthropogenic impacts, tropical island biota are more imperilled by climate change than other ecosystem. Aspects of species life histories may also increase their susceptibility to climate change.  Owing to their exclusive reliance on environmental sources of heat for incubation, megapodes, a group of 22 mostly tropical, mound-nesting birds, may be especially vulnerable. All but two species are confined to the tropics and many to islands. Consequently, megapodes are an ideal model group for investigating the predicted broad-scale impacts of climate change on insular tropical biota. We investigated the susceptibility of 22 species of megapode to environmental change caused by predicted increases in temperature, fluctuations in rainfall, and sea level rise. We used a trait-based vulnerability assessment to assess megapode exposure to projected climate variables of increasing temperatures, fluctuating rainfall, and sea level rise, and their biological sensitivity and capacity to adapt.  To determine and score species sensitivity and adaptive capacity based on our criteria, we drew on published literature and relied heavily on current data made available by the IUCN.  To determine exposure we used relevant climate data from the IPCC (2014)and the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). We reviewed literature using Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar.

The Nicobar, Moluccan and Vanuatu megapodes, and Waigeo brush-turkey were ranked most vulnerable to climate change, while the orange-footed and Philippine megapodes, malleefowl and black-billed and Australian brush-turkeys were ranked least vulnerable.  Sensitivity contributed to the vulnerability of seven species and the most influential exposure characteristic was temperature change, which increased for all species and scored 98.4% of available points, followed by sea level rise (43.3%) and precipitation change (29.5%). Adaptive capacity had little influence on the vulnerability ranking of megapodes. Annual mean temperature increase was the most important exposure criterion and all species except the Polynesian megapode were predicted to experience a temperature increase of ≥2.1°C. Sixteen species will be exposed to rising sea levels, eight of which will be at least moderately affected. Given the innate vulnerability of megapodes to climate change, our results are concerning and suggest that birds of the tropics, especially those on islands may be at great risk from sea level rise and changes to precipitation and temperatures.

A copy of the paper can be found here