Predicting the Vulnerability of Birds in Australian Tropical Savannas to Climate Change
Research into the impacts of climate change on Australian tropics has been largely limited to the Wet Tropics, where many species have highly specific requirements and are vulnerable to climate change. There has been little research conducted in the Australian tropical savannas where climate conditions are highly variable. This study investigates the impacts of climate change on birds in Australian tropical savanna. Bird abundance and habitat data will be collected at all sites to investigate how vulnerable species are to changing scenarios such as could result from future climate change. Species distribution will be modelled under current conditions and these will be projected onto future scenarios. In this process I will evaluate the usefulness of bioclimatic modelling by comparing the distributions generated using only climate data to those generated using climate data in addition to landscape factors such as vegetation distribution and management effects such as fire. The second stage will investigate the importance of using temporally-specific data of bird occurrences and climate in distribution models. In the Australian tropical savannas bird species are highly dispersive and highly variable in their movement patterns. In combination, this modelling will highlight which species are of particular concern now and under future climate change scenarios, what factors are most limiting distributions, and how the inclusion of temporal data improves model performance. Data collected will also be applied to two main questions, ‘does environmental suitability derived from species distribution data correlate with species abundance’ and ‘what are the local scale modifiers of abundance’? The vulnerability of the bird species to climate change will be investigated by incorporating factors determining intrinsic sensitivity such as life history characteristics, in addition to the distribution of each species under current and future scenarios, and their relative abundance under current and future scenarios. This will highlight species that are of most concern and those that are more likely to withstand global change, and identify the factors influencing this outcome.