Global Warming Effects Around the World

Lake Ladoga, Russia

Top Impact

Ecosystems (Lakes and rivers)

Other Impacts

Temperature (Air)

Temperature (Water)

Spring, and migrating song birds, are arriving earlier at Lake Ladoga, Russia

Springtime—and migratory songbirds such as the willow warbler—are arriving earlier at Russia's Lake Ladoga. Climate change has particularly affected the timing of spring all across Europe, which could have significant effects on land ecosystems, regional ecology, and the food chain.1

Key Facts

Lake Ladoga, the largest freshwater lake in Europe,2 is a key stopover point for migratory birds on the North Atlantic flyway.3 Earlier arrival of songbirds at Lake Ladoga is a sign that spring is occurring earlier in Russia4—one key impact of global warming.19,20

  • Scientists found a correlation between warmer temperatures and earlier arrival of small migratory songbirds at sites across northern Europe.4
  • Climate change has affected the coming of spring around the world21: it arrived in the northern hemisphere on average 11 days earlier in 2000 compared to 1970.19,22,23
  • Shifts in the timing of seasons vary substantially by species and location,24,25 which could lead to broader ecological effects, such as disruptions in the food chain.26

Details

Lake Ladoga—the largest freshwater lake in Europe2 —is home to 48 species of fish, as well as a few thousand Ladoga ringed seals, which live only here.2 The lake is the primary source of drinking water for the nearby city of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the autonomous republic of Karelia.2

Along Ladoga's southeastern shore is the Nizhnesvirsky Nature Reserve, a key stopover point for migratory birds crossing the White and Baltic seas on the North Atlantic flyway.3 More than 250 species of birds have been sighted at the reserve.3

Bird migration is a key marker of the arrival of spring. It's not surprising, then, that Lake Ladoga was one of five sites in northern Europe included in a 2005 study of the arrival dates of small migratory songbirds in their spring and summer habitats.4 Scientists found that warmer local temperatures correlated with earlier arrival of the willow warbler at Lake Ladoga during the last quarter of the twentieth century.4

Scientists have linked shifts in the timing of bird migration to climate change in birds' wintering or breeding locations, or along their migration routes.5,6,7,8 Spring migration of many bird species advanced 1.3 to 4.4 days each decade throughout Europe and North America during the last 30 to 60 years of the twentieth century.9,10,11,12,13,14

According to a recent analysis of the first spring arrival dates of birds in Europe and North America in the second half the twentieth century, nearly two-fifths arrived significantly earlier than historically, while only 2 percent arrived significantly later.9

The early arrival of migratory birds in Europe is also associated with a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).4,8,15,16 The NAO index—the difference between sea-level atmospheric pressure in the Azores and in Iceland—describes large-scale weather patterns in winter and early spring. Positive NAO indexes correspond with higher than normal subtropical high with lower low pressure over Iceland leading to above average temperatures and more precipitation in northern Europe.8

The NAO index was generally positive during the 1990s, and more often negative during the first decade of this century.17 Meanwhile climate change has brought ever-higher temperatures and typically more precipitation to northern Europe, and drier conditions to southern Europe.18

Part of a Larger Pattern

Lake Ladoga is not alone. Throughout Russia, changes in the environment—such as melting frozen ground, or permafrost, and advancing tree lines—have been linked to global warming.19,20

Climate change has particularly affected the coming of spring: life-cycle events such as leaf and bud bursts and the emergence of butterflies are occurring earlier around the world.21 Spring arrived 2.3 to 5.1 days earlier per decade between 1970 and 2000, studies show.21,22,23

However, such changes in timing vary substantially by species and location. For example, flycatchers laid their eggs 1.7 to 4.6 days earlier per decade in the late twentieth century.24 Some 36 bird species in Sweden arrived 2.1 to 3.0 days earlier in spring each decade from 1971 to 2002.25

While the ecological effects of shifting seasons are complex and difficult to anticipate, they are likely to drive changes in interactions among species, and the formation of new ecological communities. For example, the food chain may be disrupted if migrating birds arrive in their spring and summer habitat before their food sources mature.26

Animals and plants may respond to changing temperatures and habitats by shifting their ranges; by migrating—if possible—to places where the climate is more suitable; or by evolving their physical characteristics (such as body and egg size) to match their changed environment.26 However, if our climate changes rapidly and adaptation is impossible, local and global extinctions may occur.26

Credits

Endnotes

  1. Photograph from Wikipedia. Online at http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ File: Laatokka_Sortavalan_ edustalla.jpg
  2. Nero, C.M. 1999. TED case studies: Lake Ladoga water quality. Trade and Environment Database, case number 523. Online at http://www1.american.edu/ TED/ lagoda.htm. Accessed May 14, 2010.
  3. Nizhnesvirsky, Z. 2001. Wild Russia. Washington, DC: Center for Russian Nature Conservation. Online at http://www.wild-russia.org/ bioregion2/ 2-nizhnesvirsky/ 2_nizh.htm. Accessed May 14, 2010.
  4. Sparks, T.H., F. Bairlein, J.G. Bojarinova, O. Hüppop, E.A. Lehikoinen, K. Rainio, L.V. Sokolov, and D. Walker. 2005. Examining the total arrival distribution of migratory birds. Global Change Biology 11:22-30.
  5. Tryjanowski, P. 2002. A long-term comparison of laying date and clutch size in the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) in Silesia, southern Poland. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 48:101-106.
  6. Butler, C.J. 2003. The disproportionate effect of global warming on the arrival dates of short-distance migratory birds in North America. Ibis 145:484.
  7. Cotton, P.A. 2003. Avian migration phenology and global climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100:12219-12222.
  8. Huppop, O., and K. Huppop. 2003. North Atlantic Oscillation and timing of spring migration in birds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B:Biological Sciences 270:233-240.
  9. Lehikoinen, E., T.H. Sparks, and M. Zalakevicius. 2004. Arrival and departure dates. Advanced Ecological Research 35:1-31.
  10. Crick, H.Q.P., C. Dudley, D.E. Glue, and D.L. Thomson. 1997. UK birds are laying eggs earlier. Nature 388:526.
  11. Crick, H.Q.P., and T.H. Sparks. 1999. Climate change related to egg-laying trends. Nature 399:423-424.
  12. Dunn, P.O., and D. W. Winkler. 1999. Climate change has affected the breeding date of tree swallows throughout North America. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 266:2487.
  13. Inouye, D.W., B. Barr, K.B. Armitage, and B.D. Inouye. 2000. Climate change is affecting altitudinal migrants and hibernating species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97:1630.
  14. Bairlein, F., and D.W. Winkel. 2001. Birds and climate change. In: Climate of the 21st Century: Changes and risks. Edited by J.L. Lozan, H. Grasl, and P. Hupfer. Hamburg: WissenschaftlicheAuswertungen, p. 278.
  15. Hubalek, Z. 2003. Spring migration of birds in relation to North Atlantic Oscillation. Folia Zoologica 52:287-298.
  16. Sanz, J. 2003. Large-scale effects of climate change on breeding parameters of pied flycatchers in Western Europe. Ecography 26:45-50.
  17. The three-month running mean of the North Atlantic Oscillation index from 1950 to the present is available online at http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/ products/ precip/ CWlink/ pna/ month_nao_index.shtml. Accessed June 21, 2010.
  18. Trenberth, K.E., P.D. Jones, P. Ambenje, R. Bojariu, D. Easterling, A. Klein Tank, D. Parker, F. Rahimzadeh, J.A. Renwick, M. Rusticucci, B. Soden, and P. Zhai. 2007. Observations: Surface and atmospheric climate change. In: Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor, and H.L. Miller. Cambridge University Press.
  19. Alcamo, J., J.M. Moreno, B. Nováky, M. Bindi, R. Corobov, R.J.N. Devoy, C. Giannakopoulos, E. Martin, J.E. Olesen, and A. Shvidenko. 2007. Europe. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 541-580.
  20. Cruz, R.V., H. Harasawa, M. Lal, S. Wu, Y. Anokhin, B. Punsalmaa, Y. Honda, M. Jafari, C. Li, and N. Huu Ninh. 2007. Asia. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 469-506.
  21. Rosenzweig, C., G. Casassa, D.J. Karoly, A. Imeson, C. Liu, A. Menzel, S. Rawlins, T.L. Root, B. Seguin, and P. Tryjanowski. 2007. Assessment of observed changes and responses in natural and managed systems. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 79-131.
  22. Parmesan, C., and G. Yohe. 2003.A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421:37-42.
  23. Root, T.L., J.T. Price, K.R. Hall, S.H. Schneider, C. Rosenzweig, and J.A. Pounds. 2003. Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421:57-60.
  24. Both, C., A.V.Artemyev, B. Blaauw, R.J. Cowie, A.J. Dekhuijzen, T. Eeva, A. Enemar, L. Gustafsson, E.V. Ivankina, A. Jarvinen, N.B. Metcalfe, N.E.I. Nyholm, J. Potti, P.A. Ravussin, J.J. Sanz, B. Silverin, F.M. Slater, L.V. Sokolov, J. Torok, W. Winkel, J. Wright, H. Zang, and M.E. Visser. 2004. Large-scale geographical variation confirms that climate change causes birds to lay earlier. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 271:1657.
  25. Stervander, M., K. Lindstrom, N. Jonzen, and A. Andersson. 2005. Timing of spring migration in birds: Long-term trends, North Atlantic Oscillation and the significance of different migration routes. Journal of Avian Biology 36:210-221.
  26. Fischlin, A., G.F. Midgley, J.T. Price, R. Leemans, B. Gopal, C. Turley, M.D.A. Rounsevell, O.P. Dube, J. Tarazona, and A.A. Velichko. 2007. Ecosystems, their properties, goods, and services. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 211-272.
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