Southern yellow-billed laughter at the study site. Credit: Nicholas Pattinson

Yellow-billed Laughter, a cousin of fans of Zazu from “The Lion King”, is threatened with local extinction due to the climate crisis. The researchers studied the effects of high temperatures and drought on the breeding success of southern yellow-billed slingshots in the Kalahari Desert between 2008 and 2019. This study is one of the first to investigate the impact of the climate crisis on the success of reproduction at the population level over a longer period of time.

The climate crisis is exacerbated by harsh extreme climate conditions such as high temperatures and the frequency and intensity of drought periods associated with arid regions.

Animals inhabiting these regions are already suffering from the consequences. For example, previous studies have shown that the success of breeding several species of birds is affected by global warming. They reproduce earlier and less time.

“There is growing evidence of the negative effects of high temperatures on the behavior, physiology, reproduction and survival of various species of birds, mammals and reptiles around the world,” said first author Dr Nicholas Pattinson of the University of Cape. Town.

“For example, there are more and more cases of mass extinctions due to heat, within a few days, which undoubtedly pose a threat to the preservation of the population and the functioning of the ecosystem.”

Pattinson and colleagues investigated whether rapid climate warming has affected the breeding success of southern yellow-billed birds, birds of arid zones, for 10 years. The study was published in Frontiers in ecology and evolution.

Yellow-billed Laughter

The distribution of southern yellow-billed slingshots includes most of South Africa, much of which is the Kalahari Desert. It is believed that their number is decreasing.

Known for its distinctive breeding and nesting strategy, the southern yellow-billed hornbill is a socially monogamous species. They are hollow nests; the female is sealed in the nest cavity and remains there for an average of 50 days for brooding and caring for the chicks. The only hole is a narrow vertical slit through which the male feeds the female and chicks.

This type of nesting largely protects against predation, which means that the success of reproduction depends primarily on other factors such as climate and food availability. For example, yellow-billed horned animals initiate reproduction in response to rainfall, which corresponds to the hottest days of the year. This makes it difficult for them to postpone the breeding season beyond the hottest periods.

Population collapse

Pattinson and his team studied the population of southern yellow-billed rhinoceros birds in the Kuruman River Reserve in the southern Kalahari Desert in South Africa between 2008 and 2019. Data were collected exclusively from pairs that bred in wooden nest boxes. They looked at breeding success on a large and subtle scale (long-term trends and individual breeding attempts respectively). The team also analyzed climate trends in the region.

The results showed that during the monitoring period (2008-2019) due to the increase in the maximum air temperature there was a decrease in breeding products.

“During the monitoring period, the post-mortem effects of high temperatures (including impaired feed production, maintenance and maintenance of body weight) reduced the likelihood of successful reproduction or even reproduction at all,” Pattinson explained.

Comparing the first three seasons (between 2008 and 2011) with the last three (between 2016 and 2019), the researchers found that the average percentage of occupied nest boxes decreased from 52% to 12%, the success of nesting (successfully raising and plumage in at least one chick) decreased from 58% to 17%, and the average number of chickens obtained for breeding attempts decreased from 1.1 to 0.4.

Successful attempts to breed above the threshold temperature of 35.7 ° C have not been recorded. Breeding performance was negatively correlated with an increase in the days on which the maximum air temperature exceeded the threshold at which the horned ones demonstrated heat transfer behavior and normal breeding and nesting behavior. These effects were present even in drought-free years.

Rapid climate crisis

Research shows that the rapid pace of the climate crisis has serious negative consequences for charismatic species for anxiously short periods of time. Current warming forecasts at the study site indicate that the threshold for successful breeding will be exceeded throughout the breeding season until about 2027.

“Much of the public perception of the effects of the climate crisis is related to the scenarios for 2050 and beyond,” Pattinson continued. “But the consequences climate crisis relevant and can manifest not only throughout our lives, but even within a decade. ”

“Despite the lack of bright big events, our prediction in this study is that southern yellow-billed horned beetles could be wiped out of the hottest parts of their range as early as 2027.”

“The deadly effects of high temperatures can lead to local extinction, leading to set failure (i.e., when young animals do not join the population) and changes in the ecosystems on which we all depend.”

Coastal are more often bred after successful reproduction

Additional information:
Frontiers in ecology and evolution (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fevo.2022.842264 ,… evo.2022.842264 / full

Citation: Climate crisis leads to local extinction of yellow beak (2022, May 19) obtained on May 19, 2022 from

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