Temperature changes explain the loss of species populations in Mexico

Worthen’s sparrow © Jesus Fernando Cerra Luna

The gains, losses and turnover of endemic bird species from sampling points across Mexico between 1814-1999 and 2000-2012 have been influenced predominantly by temperature change, with precipitation change and an index of human influence being of less importance.

Gains and losses of birds restricted to Mexico since 1950. Squares show sampled areas from which patterns were interpolated. Green indicates low values, red indicates high values.
SOURCE: Peterson et al. (2015) Sci. Adv. 1: e1400071.

Bird ranges are shifting in response to climate change (Zuckerberg et al. 2009, Auer & King 2014, Environmental Protection Agency 2014, Virkkala & Lehikoinen 2014, Gillings et al. 2015), and whilst considerable species turnover is expected by the end of the century (Hole et al. 2009, Stralberg et al. 2009, Bagchi et al. 2013, Velasquez-Tibata et al. 2013), changes in Mexican avian composition can already be seen (Peterson et al. 2015).

Historical and current Mexican bird range distributions were used to determine the relationship between avifaunal change, human activity and climate change (Peterson et al. 2015). A human impact index incorporated data on nine variables including human population pressure, land use and infrastructure (human population density and distribution of night time lighting, roads and railways), whilst climate change data included average temperature and total annual precipitation.

The biases inherent to large-scale monitoring projects—such as data concentrated in easy to access areas—was overcome by using a modelling approach that used the range of the existing data to evenly fill the gaps.

Of 115 endemic species studied, there were substantially more endemic species that have been lost than gained, with changes being largely driven by temperature change. The patterns of losses, gains and species turnover varied spatially, with losses being wide spread, but gains being concentrated in just two hotspots.  Climate change has therefore had large impacts on avian range dynamics over the past century, with profound effects on avian composition in Mexico.

This case study is taken from ‘The Messengers: What birds tell us about threats from climate change and solutions for nature and people’. To download the report in full click here

Related Species


Auer, S. K. and King, D. I. (2014) Ecological and life-history traits explain recent boundary shifts in elevation and latitude of western North American songbirds. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 23: 867–875.
Bagchi, R., Crosby, M., Huntley, B., Hole, D. G., Butchart, S. H. M., Collingham, Y., Kalra, M., Rajkumar, J., Rahmani, A., Pandey, M., Gurung, H., Trai, L-T., Quang, N. and Willis, S. G. (2013) Evaluating the effectiveness of conservation site networks under climate change: accounting for uncertainty. Glob. Change Biol. 19: 1236–1248.

Environmental Protection Agency (2014) Climate change indicators in the United States: Bird Wintering Ranges. Available at: http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/ecosystems/bird-ranges.html.Gillings, S., Balmer, D. E. and Fuller, R. J. (2015) Directionality of recent bird distribution shifts and climate change in Great Britain. Glob. Change Biol. 21: 2155–2168.

Hole, D. G., Willis, S. G., Pain, D. J., Fishpool, L. D., Butchart, S. H. M., Collingham, Y. C., Rahbek, C. and Huntley, B. (2009) Projected impacts of climate change on a continent-wide protected area network. Ecol. Lett. 12: 420–431.
Peterson, A. T., Navarro-Sigüenza, A. G., Martínez-Meyer, E., Cuervo-Robayo, A. P., Berlanga, H. and Soberón, J. (2015) Twentieth century turnover of Mexican endemic avifaunas: Landscape change versus climate drivers. Sci. Adv. 1: e1400071.

Stralberg, D., Jongsomjit, D., Howell, C. A., Snyder, M. A., Alexander, J. D., Wiens, J. A. and Root, T. L. (2009) Re-shuffling of species with climate disruption: A no-analog future for california birds? PLoS ONE 4: e6825.
Velásquez-Tibatá, J., Salaman, P. and Graham, C. H. (2013) Effects of climate change on species distribution, community structure, and conservation of birds in protected areas in Colombia. Reg. Environ. Change 13: 235–248.
Virkkala, R. and Lehikoinen, A. (2014) Patterns of climate-induced density shifts of species: poleward shifts faster in northern boreal birds than in southern birds. Glob. Change Biol. 20: 2995–3003.
Zuckerberg, B., Woods, A. M. and Porter, W. F. (2009) Poleward shifts in breeding bird distributions in New York State. Glob. Change Biol. 15: 1866–1883.

Compiled: 2015    Copyright: 2015   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2015) Temperature changes explain the loss of species populations in Mexico. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/03/2018