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Female prairie warbler

Female prairie warbler

A female prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor) at the Bent of the River Audubon Sanctuary in Southbury, Connecticut. A study that tracked biodiversity in nesting birds found that insectivorous birds like the prairie warbler showed the most drastic declines across all geographic scales, from local to continental.

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Researchers at Yale University studied 50 years of data about nesting birds in North America and tracked biodiversity changes on a local, regional and continental scale. They found significant differences in how much change had occurred, based upon how wide a geographic net they cast.

The findings have implications for how to assess biodiversity in a rapidly changing world, as well as how biodiversity information should be presented.

"Biodiversity is changing all around us and worldwide. Local species disappear and sometimes other species invade," said co-author Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director of the Max Planck-Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change. "Studying birds in the U.S. and worldwide, we show that patterns and implications of this ongoing change vary strongly with the scale."

This means a minor loss or gain of species richness or functional diversity at the local or county level can look like a major gain at the state or national level, and yet be a net loss when viewed at a global scale.

This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Genealogy of Life (GoLife) program (grants DEB 15-41557, DBI 12-62600 and DEB 14-41737), of which the main goal is to understand the multiple dimensions of biodiversity.

To learn more about this research, see the UA Fairbanks news story Scale is a key ingredient when tracking biodiversity, researchers say. (Date image taken: June 7, 2018; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Dec. 17, 2018)

Credit: Julie Hart, Yale University

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