Assessing Long-term Dynamics of Bird Distributions in Relation to Climate Change: From Grinnell to Present



University of California, Berkeley




Certain renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, can use large areas of land and may have ecological impacts that must be mitgated, for example, setting aside other areas of similar ecological importance. Current analyses assume that historical distribution of species can inform the selection of the mitigation areas. However, climate change invalidates this assumption. For this reason, ecological impacts and mitigation efforts should consider how climate change will affect the distrubtion of flora and fauna. Scientists expect ranges of many species to shift dramatically with future climate change. Long‐term range shifts and species colonization and extinction (turnover) events are best understood by comparing historical surveys to modern surveys. The authors used mean annual temperature and annual precipitation data to test for effects of climate change and land use change over the last 100 years on the distribution patterns of 100 breeding bird species, primarily songbirds. Joseph Grinnell and colleagues first surveyed sites along a 1,000 km north‐south transect in the California Coast Ranges between 1911 and 1940. The authors resurveyed 70 of these sites for this project in 2009 and 2010. Occupancy models were used to estimate detectability and sitelevel measures of occupancy, colonization, and extinction between the two survey periods. With a better understanding of sensitivity of birds to climate change and land‐use, wildlife managers and energy industry planners will effectively know which indicators to consider when planning for the preservation of birds and locating power generation facilities. Advanced planning for conservation areas will help energy providers site new facilities more quickly and economically, as well as decrease negative impacts on California’s wildlife. This is a state-funded research study sponsored by the California Energy Commission.

Climate Impact Tags

Adaptation Planning Guide Phases

Phase 2: Assess Vulnerability

Resource Type Tags

Scientific study


Extent: California


Last updated: Feb. 1, 2023