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Sparrows’ storm stress a harbinger of climate-change impact

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A study led by researcher Andrea Boyer found that white-throated sparrows do not cope well with storm stresses brought on by climate change. Submitted photo

Sparrows show increased stress when exposed to more numerous and more severe winter storms, says a Western study that tested the songbirds’ resilience to the effects of climate change.

And where a canary in a coal mine once provided an early signal of danger to humans below ground, ‘sparrows in a snowstorm’ might be a harbinger of trouble for other species dealing with frequent extreme-weather events, the researchers say.

The paper recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution was co-authored by PhD student Andrea Boyer and Scott MacDougall-Shackleton, director of the Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) at Western.

Theirs is the first study to simulate, in a controlled setting, the impact of winter storms on birds. “This is one of the few places in the world you can do a study like this,” because of the facility’s unique capacity to mimic different climate conditions, MacDougall-Shackleton said.

The study showed that white-throated sparrows exposed to one storm a week increased their bodies’ energy stores as a survival mechanism; and two storms per week depleted the songbirds’ ability […]

read more here —> news.westernu.ca

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