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See detailImpacts des changements climatiques passés et présents sur la génétique et la démographie du Cincle plongeur (Cinclus cinclus)
Hourlay, Frederic ULg

Doctoral thesis (2011)

Climate change is emerging as the greatest threat to natural communities in many, if not most, of the world’s ecosystems in coming decades. Numerous studies have revealed present and probable future ... [more ▼]

Climate change is emerging as the greatest threat to natural communities in many, if not most, of the world’s ecosystems in coming decades. Numerous studies have revealed present and probable future consequences that climate change will have on many animal and vegetal species. According to these studies, birds could be affected, mostly negatively, in various ways : distribution, abundance, phenology, ethology ... The purpose of this work is to determine how the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), a Palearctic, temperate, passerine bird that is exclusively associated with flowing water, reacted to the climate changes that occurred during the Pleistocene, and how climate change currently affects this species : - For this purpose, we conducted a phylogeographic study : we analysed three fragments of mtDNA (i.e. fragments coding for cytochrome b, ND2 and domains II and III of the controle region) from 106 tissue samples originating from 24 dipper populations, mostly located in the Western Palearctic. - The second part of this work consisted in analysing ringing recoveries and nest-boxes frequentation from a dippers population settled on the river Syre and its tributaries (Luxemburg) and followed from 1979 to 2001. Populations census were also conducted on different water courses in Luxemburg, in order to determine dipper habitat preferences. 1. Phylogeography of the dipper in the Western Palearctic region In spite of a low genetic variability, the results of our phylogeographic study reveal a complex phylogeographic structure for this species with at least five distinct lineages for the Western Palearctic region. As for many species of the Western Palearctic fauna and flora, this genetic structure is probably linked to the isolation of populations in different southern refuges during glacial periods. Furthermore, the isolation of populations in Scandinavia and/or Eastern regions, but also in Morocco and probably in Corsica, was accentuated by ecological and biogeographic barriers during Quaternary interglacial periods. During glacial periods, Italy, Sicily and the Balkano-Carpathian region acted as major refuge zones for the dipper. At the end of the last ice age, Western Europe was repopulated by dippers from a refuge located in Italy and, probably, South-East France, while Eastern Europe was recolonised by Balkano-Carpathian birds. A large contact zone between these two lineages was evidenced and extends from Luxembourg to Hungary. Finally, our results indicate the need to clarify the taxonomic status of the dipper, especially concerning the European subspecies whose validity appears uncertain. 2. Dipper demography – Influence of climate change and other anthropic pertubations Results obtained from the analysis of demographic and morphologic variables of the Luxemburger population are in agreement with results obtained from other European populations. Differences observed between these populations are mostly due to climate and habitat quality differences. However, other factors could also partly explain these differences. As for other places in Europe, nest boxes installation dramatically increased dippers population size on the river Syre. Our results also suggest that the installation of nest boxes could influence some demographic and morphologic variables, probably as a result of population increase. But, above all, our results show how temperatures and precipitations affect these variables, and particularly laying dates. Climatic changes that occurred during the last decades provoked earlier laying dates. Whereas clutch size and nest size remained unchanged, the Luxemburger population size decreased during the same period, as observed for other European populations. The main cause to this decrease should be an increase of environmental instability inducing notably a decrease of food ressources for dippers. As a result, we observed a significant decrease of females body weight during this period. Climate change will also probably have a serious impact on dipper genetic diversity, leading to the disappearance of the most southern populations and eventually of certain genetic clades. The results obtained concerning the taxonomic status of the dipper and its demography could be useful in the framework of a conservation program, if necessary. In this perspective, the development of habitat suitability prediction tools, as the one we developed, could also be very helpful. [less ▲]

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